Since 2013, JNAAG has partnered with the Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton on an innovative and in-demand outreach program for individuals living with early onset dementia and their caregivers in the community. We held a special weekend reception to celebrate the 2014 program on January 10 and 11, 2015.

Read more about the reception and our outreach program in the article from The Observer here: http://www.theobserver.ca/2015/01/11/alzheimer-society-and-art-gallery-celebrate-partnership-with-weekend-show

Above photo by Paul Morden, The Observer.

Full article follows:

When Don Craig signs his initials at the bottom corner of his artwork, it’s more than a sign of pride.

It’s also a memory cue that helped the Sarnia man find his pieces in a weekend art show celebrating a partnership between the Alzheimer Society of Sarnia Lambton and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery.

Diagnosed five years ago with dementia, the retired banker and municipal clerk has been part of the art program since it began in 2013.

One of Craig’s watercolours was on display in a show held Saturday and Sunday at Sarnia’s downtown public art gallery.

His wife, Anne Craig, said she can see the difference the art program makes.

She remembers after the first session they attended at the art gallery, “you could feel the excitement and happiness of the whole group.”

It drew out some people with dementia in the group in a way she hadn’t seen before, Craig said.

“One of the problems that we find with dementia, and with Alzheimer’s, is that people lose the ability to do certain things,” Craig.

“As you lose certain things, the world closes in.”

But, picking up something new, like art, can help, she said.

“They’re not just closing in, they’re still out doing other things.”

Craig said she feels lucky the program is available, locally.

“I’m really enjoying it,” Don said.

Caitlyn McMillan, community art educator at the gallery, said the society approached the gallery with the idea.

“We built up the program together,” she added.

“We really wanted to do something that would engage the participants in something that is active, gives then a chance to socialize and stretch their skills.”

Ileana Rivas, support services co-ordinator with the society, said it has been a great success.

“We do feel that art allows people with dementia to reflect some of their feelings, to expand on some of the loses they be experiencing, to try something different,” Rivas said.

It can also be therapeutic, particularly for individuals who have lost the ability to express feelings verbally, Rivas said.

“It’s amazing to see how well they express themselves, and just enjoy being here.”

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, nearly 15% of Canadians 65 and older live with cognitive impairment, including dementia.

The sessions are designed for approximately 12 people who spend time touring and talking about current exhibitions at the gallery, and then work on art reflective of what they’ve seen.

“I think it allows them to stretch and experiment and try new things,” McMillan said.

“Some of them with language barriers, and things like that, really are able to open up creatively and show who they are through the artwork.”

The weekend art show was the second the program has held at the gallery, and was part of Alzheimer Awareness Month activities in Sarnia-Lambton.

The society’s fundraising Walk for Memories is set for Jan. 21, 9 a.m., at Lambton Mall. Information is available online at walkformemories.ca.