Below is a student blog post as part of the course Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts. Enjoy! ~ Anne Mondro
Hi. My name is Sandy. I’m a master’s student in the School of Social Work. I am in the last few weeks of my program, and I am excited to finish the coursework and dive into the practice of social work. I hope to continue working with older adults, individuals with memory loss, and family care partners. Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts has been the highlight of the program, and I will be sad when the course is over. The best part of the class has been the incredible experience of being welcomed into the Coffeehouse community, and getting to know the members. I have had the opportunity to talk with many of the members, and experience art – either through observation or actual participation – with them as well. I do not bring an art background to this experience so the activities that are planned to engage the club members and the students have been a learning experience for me as well. Sharing activities like drumming, painting and dancing are a wonderful way to break down barriers and bring people together, which is just what has happened over the past few weeks.
The following is a post written by Sydney, one of our students in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts. Her post shares her interest in taking the course and reflects on the importance of community and family. We look forward to sharing more posts with you in the coming month. ~ Anne Mondro, Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts Professor
I registered for Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts in order to gain knowledge about the complexity of memory loss. By taking this course I hoped to develop various strategies in order to effectively connect with individuals, like my grandfather, who suffers from memory loss. I did not expect this class to alter my appreciation for my family as well as to deepen relationships with my parents and grandparents. In particular, my appreciation for my family heightened after hearing our guest care partner speak about her experience caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s. She stressed the importance of a close-knit family as the base of her strong support system.
Being in college, I am unable to see my family on a daily basis. Even though I am unable to physically see my family, I still keep a constant dialogue with them. Family is the most important and stable thing I have in my life, and I will not allow the distance between us to affect our relationship. This course has reinforced the significance that family plays in my life. With aging, the importance of family is heightened. My grandma (Nana) says family keeps her young. My grandfather (Pop-Pop) agrees. Family is the most important thing they have. In my family, there is a consensus that family is the core of happiness.
The Coffeehouse Club has been a home away from home for me. Each Thursday, as I walk into Coffeehouse, I feel a rush of emotions associated with positive family memories. The relationship I share with my Coffeehouse member is incredible. Talking with her makes me feel as though she is my grandmother. In particular, hearing simple stories from her life about travel, childhood, and secret home remedies has taught me countless life lessons. A few weeks ago, she told me about going to drive-in movie theatres with her high school boyfriend. This memory she shared was extremely special. Through the various stories, we have created a strong granddaughterly/grandma bond. Each Thursday, I leave Coffeehouse upbeat and cheerful, feeling a positive aura. In addition, as soon as I get home, I call my grandmother in Bethesda to say hi. I feel so fortunate to be part of this amazing program, and I hope to share everything I have learned with my family.
As part of Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts, students are paired with Coffeehouse club members to explore, create, and share together. The Coffeehouse club is one of the U-M Geriatric Centers Mild Memory Loss Programs in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and serves people in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. Below is a student reflection on the course and a recent visit to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, one of the many activities planned for the students and Coffeehouse members to enjoy together.
Hello, I am an art student interested in the effect of aging and mental cognition. I come from a military background before coming to the University of Michigan. My interest in this program was to explore successful processes in dealing with the challenges of the disease and to be surrounded by strong experienced people. I also have an underlying hope that there may be an opportunity to share these skills and techniques with people with PTSD and vice versa.
Either case I am a strong believer in interactive support and find myself at constant surprise engaging with the Coffeehouse Members. We had a great opportunity to engage with members privately during our trip at the museum. I was surprise at the level of speed and intensity that my Coffeehouse member was operating at. I knew he was energetic and went out on runs. Once we where divided into teams, it was a bit difficult to unify everyone’s suggestions. My Coffeehouse member was already showing display of eagerness to go and took the initiative to start without us. So I just followed him, and doing so I discovered my misjudgment of his physical ability. He would run off from station to station. Once I got caught up we talked for a short while about the artwork. It was refreshing to find someone so knowledgeable and passionate about the artwork as I. The next day I was mentally sore from the information overload given by my member as well as physically sore just trying to keep up with him.