Arts for Alzheimer's: Movie Screenings Jog Memories
Nov 28, 2011, 9:23 a.m.
Aunt Tilly doesn't chat or interact much since her Alzheimer's reached its current stage. She has trouble remembering names and faces, or recalling what was said to her just a few minutes ago. Yet one day you're watching TV with her and she suddenly announces, "There's Trevor Howard!" or "My favorite scene is coming up!"
Have you ever found yourself startled by such moments of clarity? Don't be. While sufferers from Alzheimer's disease find it increasingly difficult to retain short-term memories, many of their older memories remain razor-sharp -- including their favorite movies and film stars from the golden age of cinema. The same holds true for the music they grew up with or their favorite paintings. These cues can enable Alzheimer's patients to re-connect temporarily with their surroundings and their memories -- and that's the goal of a non-profit organization known as the Artists for Alzheimer's (ARTZ) project.
ARTZ was established as part of the Hearthstone I'm Still Here Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Alzheimer's patients. ARTZ focuses on helping these individuals experience and interact with the outside world again through exposure to the performing, visual and musical arts. One of their current programs involves regular screenings of short clips from old classic movies held especially for this population. A presenter will introduce the clips and invite the audience to answer questions about the films or film stars of their youth. Once the clip begins, audience members are encouraged to sing along or repeat famous lines along with the performers. The result is a truly interactive, entertaining experience for everyone involved as old memories come rushing to the surface.
But not all the memories are old ones. ARTZ organizers are finding that these screenings can help new memories form as well. Many participants will continue to talk about the event for several days afterward and even look ahead to the next opportunity to attend a screening. The mere fact that they feel totally "plugged in" to what's going on around them can supply them with some much-needed reassurance and self-confidence. Think about it -- if you couldn't remember your family members' names or recognize any of today's musicians or TV personalities, how would you feel about diving into the conversation? ARTZ screenings provide a vivid mutual connection point for people who desperately want and need to find a way to engage in life despite their circumstances.
ARTZ has continued to expand its reach since it was first founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2001. Today it has major chapters in the U.S., France, Germany, Australia and the U.K. Its ultimate goal is to have theaters, sports clubs, galleries and other hot spots all over the world offering special events for dementia patients. You can learn more about the organization through its website, artistsforalzheimers.org. In the meantime, make sure you have some of Aunt Tilly's favorite classics standing by at home. You may be amazed at how much fun you both have!
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