FYI Daily

How Art Enriches Alzheimer's

Last updated: May 17, 2012

Van Gogh

A growing trend at museums around the country is to offer art-appreciation programs for people with Alzheimer's disease. The Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., for example, pairs Alzheimer's sufferers with middle school students, reports NPR's "Morning Edition" program.

Each month, small groups focus on specific works in a collection that includes Picasso, Renoir, Miro, Monet, and many others, plus pre-Columbian, Asian and African art.

"There's something about being in the stimulating environment," says Derya Samadi, who runs the Kreeger's Alzheimer's program. "It's there for them; they haven't lost it. They just can't connect to it. So you're just trying to open up channels for them."

Art therapy for Alzheimer's can, of course, be done in many different ways, not necessarily through a formal museum program. The Kreeger program is interesting because it's multi-generational, bringing together students with older adults who have dementia. Hearing poetry related to the art is also part of its experience. See other ideas for Alzheimer's art therapy using different forms of art.

"The goal is to make people feel better and to give them a pleasant experience in the moment," Samadi says. Participants' families note that, even though the specific museum experience may be quickly forgotten, the improved mood that the outing sparks can last much longer.

Image by Flickr user tonynetone, used under a Creative Commons license.