A couple weeks ago, a family friend asked me for advice about someone who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease knowing that I work in a retirement home. I was really excited to tell her about Memory, Aging, and Expressive Arts and what I learned from the course. It felt great to help someone gain a better understanding of the disease and relieve some of her worries just by sharing some of the knowledge I have gained from the class. I recommended her to look into programs like the Silver Club.
My time working with the Wisdom Keepers was different from what I was expecting. There is not a dramatic change in the disease and sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you are helping at all. I learned to pay attention to the subtle details to see the effect. By noticing little improvements, I saw so many wonderful things happen during my short time with the Wisdom Keepers.
My first time meeting the Wisdom Keeper member I was going to work with, I got the impression that she was a little quiet, and maybe even sad. Our day pretty much started the same each week. We would have the same conversation and when the artwork began, my member always reminded me that she was no good but she will try. Once she started painting or collaging, she became very focused and determined to get her work just right. The final product always turned out beautiful and it was exciting to see how happy that made her. She was all smiles as she showed her work to the other members and her daughter. She could not wait to bring the work home and hang it up.
The change from our first meeting to the last was incredible. Her memory was not great, she repeated the same sentences often, forgetting that she told me the same thing just ten minutes before. On our last afternoon together, she brought up the art exhibition that we talked about the previous week and said how excited she was for it. This moment will stick with me for a long time.
Making someone happy is one of the best feelings and I am so proud that I could see the positive impact our work was having on the members. The members were not the only ones gaining from weekly meet ups. I have grown as a person and have a better perspective on aging, happiness, and life in general. I feel so privileged to have had this experience.
~ Kristine, UM Art & Design Student