With my students at Institute on Aging in San Francisco, I discovered how powerful art can be to help bring back a spark in mildly demented adults. One gentleman, who was previously not interested in art classes offered at the center, came to life when offered watercolors and conversation about various famous artists. A whole story came out about his days in the 50's when he was an architectural student. His paintings were sophisticated, and he kept working long after I had to leave. Another woman, who barely spoke, instead got to work on a small landscape and showed she had surprising ability to handle the media. Others were able to be convinced to give it a try, and started to have fun, while memories of childhood evoked, happy smiles, and beautiful little paintings emerged.
Every week I hear new stories from these long-lived folks, art being a conduitto so many other aspects of a personal history. While some don't remember me from week to week, once we get started the paint and paper form their own relationship with the artists. Everyone is living fully in the moment, but also pleasant memories are uncovered and shared.