Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2015

Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts (MAEA) 2015 is underway! Sixteen students in art and design and social work are building their understanding and awareness of the complexity of memory loss and exploring various forms of creative expression to prepare to collaborate with the Coffeehouse Club, one of the University of Michigan (U-M) Geriatric Centers Mild Memory Loss Programs.

The start of the semester has included some insightful lectures and presentations. Dr. Nan Barbas, a University of Michigan (U-M) professor in neurology, introduced the science of memory including discussing the various types of memory and the concept that memories aren’t concrete. Professor Beth Spencer in the U-M School of Social Work discussed aging and the challenges that older adults face. Laura Rice-Oeschger, U-M Coffeehouse Program Facilitator and MADC Wellness Coordinator, introduced the concepts of personhood and wellbeing in relation to memory loss. Andee Jannsen, trained in dementia care, spoke to the students to touch upon key interpersonal skills and best practices for working with memory-impaired adults.

The lectures and presentations have been balanced with creative activities. Teaching with Elaine Reed, U-M Hospital Artist in Residence and Co-Facilitator of Silver Club Mild Memory Loss Programs, we are introducing various modes of creative expression. We have explored writing including poetry and story building and just completed a two-week visual art exercise to practice developing age-appropriate and sophisticated projects. This coming week we’ll be exploring Ipad apps to build creative projects around and hear from a U-M composer and former MAEA student on using music to connect to others.

All that said, the course couldn’t exist without the Coffeehouse club members, a group of amazing and inspiring men and women. Their kindness and openness has already been recognized by several of the students over the past few weeks.

The students and Coffeehouse members meet together every Thursday morning to share in new creative experiences. Together they have explored a music activity, a dance class, and visited the University of Michigan Museum of Art. In the coming weeks the students and Coffeehouse members will be paired to create collaborative projects based on their interests.

MAEA relies on creativity to bring people together, to provide moments of discovery, joy, and kindness. Stay tuned as the students and Coffeehouse members share their insights on this experience!

~Anne Mondro, Associate Professor, Stamps School of Art & Design, Lead Instructor of Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts