Monday, May 21, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Bridging Alzheimers and Arts
By JENNIFER XU
Andrea Simons, a docent for the
Detroit Institute of Arts, is giving
a tour. She pauses at a sculpture
called "The Genius of the Dance,"
showcasing a man with long, flow-
ing locks holding a tambourine. His
body, taut with muscles, sways with
the motion of the imaginary music.
"Do you like to dance?" Simons
asks her audience, a small group
of elderly adults - some in wheel-
chairs, some not - all with some
form of dementia.
"If I looked like that, I would,"
returns Louis Niebrzydowski, 86.
Niebrzydowski, a former silhouette
painter who has quit his trade since
being transferred to assisted living
five years ago, was brought to the
DIA by his daughter, Diane, for the
museum's monthly "Meet Me at the
The program, a 90-minute tour
that brings elderly patients with
dementia to the museum to engage
in a series of intimate dialogues, is
one of the many nationwide efforts
to bridge the gap between memory
loss and creative expression.
First spearheaded by the Muse-
um of Modern Art in 2006, the
University of Michigan Museum of
Art kickstarted its own program,
"Meet Me at UMMA," in 2009 after
the docents attended a workshop
funded by the MoMA Alzheimer's
Project. The DIA followed suit just
a few months ago.
In a 2006 study commissioned
by George Washington University's
center on Aging, Health & Humani-
ties, it was found that elderly
individuals exposed to creative
interventions had a higher rating
of physical health. They went to the
doctor less often and relied on their
medications less. They reported
fewer incidences of falls.
"When I was visiting MoMA,
two men were like this:" UMMA
docent Marlene Ross said as she
mimicked a patient with catatonia.
Her head droops rigidly, her long
silver hair obscuring her eyes.
"I thought, 'Well, not going to
get much there.' But as soon as they
got in front of a piece of artwork,
Ross picks her head up and
comes to life, eyes brightening. A
smile rushes across her face.
"Talked, interacted, made appro-
priate and insightful comments. If
you had seen this man ten minutes
before, you would have thought,
'There's nothing there."'
For a long time, a diagnosis of
Alzheimer's disease tolled like a
Under a PET scanner, neurofi-
brillary plaques and tangles knot
the surface of the Alzheimer's
brain. These plaques and tangles
work their way across the infold-
ings of the nervous system, slashing
away vital connections - the abil-
ity to coordinate muscle movement,
verbalize words or recognize a face.
But what scientists have come to
realize is that the disease doesn't
harm all parts of the brain. Bal-
ance, sensory pathways and vision
stay largely intact. Their memories
might be altered, but patients can
still live in the present.
"You don't need to have a mem-
ory to have a visual response to
something ... exciting or beautiful
or disturbing," Ross said.
And the warehouses used for
storing long-term memory are
spared until late in the disease's
progression. Dr. Cathleen Connell,
a School of Public Health professor,
said this might be the reason why
music and art therapy are beneficial
to people with Alzheimer's - it may
trigger distant memories and help
connect a present experience with
something from the past.
"There's a feeling of 'This is a
good place,' " UMMA docent
Gretta Spier said. "They may not
remember the specific tour, but
there's a positive feeling about
Since the original program's
inception in 2006, representa-
tives from the MoMA Alzheimer's
Project have been traveling the
country inspiring museums to
continue its mission.
This is how "Meet Me at
UMMA" got its start. But it's also
evolved from there. UMMA's
dementia program has expanded
beyond MoMA's initial notion of a
discussion-based tour into some-
thing more imaginative.
"I don't even know how we
came up with this, but we thought
it would be really good idea to
engage as much of the senses as
we can," Ross said.
The visitors - two groups from
the residential community Huron
Woods and the University Health
System's Turner Geriatric Silver
Club - throw multicolored fabrics
Ann Arbor, MI
UIN l-H U NDRJEl-T WEKNTIY I WO YELARIS O EDITORIAL FREEDOUM
Weekly Summer Edition
Monday, May 21, 2012
A senior citizen looks on at 'The Genius of the Dance!'
CAL LING ALL STUDENTS!
Do you have what it takes to be a
Now hiring for summer temp positions.
Go to google.umich.edu to apply.
on the floor, uncork Indian spices
and sing along ("lustily," Spier says)
to big band music. Behind a wall
encrusted with malachite-colored
tesserae, docent Susan Schreiber
emerges as Mrs. Louisine Have-
meyer, mistress of the house, regal-
ingthe audience with fabulous tales
of her husband, the sugar baron.
"If (MoMA) saw us, they'd prob-
ably have a fit," Ross said.
And the museum setting offers
more than just a place to observe
magnificent works of art; it also
offers inspiration to create them.
In one instance, Ross dressed up
as Martha Washington, encourag-
ing the visitors to draw a portrait
of themselves on a cut-out oval. On
the sides, the visitors wrote char-
acteristics of themselves: mom,
happy, beautiful, white hair, cool
hat. When the visitors put the oval
to the mirror, they found a reflec-
tion of themselves gazing back.
Art & Design Prof. Anne Mondro,
who herself turned to artmaking
after a speech impediment made
it difficult to verbalize the emo-
tions she felt, praised artmaking as
an excellent vehicle for patients to
express themselves and take con-
trol of a situation.
"Anyone who's a patient in the
hospital loses their ability to have
control over whathappenstothem,"
she said. "They don't get to decide
as much because they have to follow
what the nurses have to say, or they
have to follow these tests today."
But in creative endeavors, the
patients have independence, she
said. They can choose what colors
and brushes they want to use. They
can use their hands and muscles.
The art begins to call on physi-
cal sensations, serving as a vehicle
to tap into a nonverbal, emotional
place in a person.
According to George Wash-
ington University Prof. Elizabeth
Warson, who specializes in the
role of art in American Indian
cancer patients, visual and kines-
thetic creative activity serves as
excellent machinery for storytell-
ing. A search for a story through art
validates the artmaker as the author
and reestablishes his or her sense of
The capacity for the creative arts
to reawaken the imagination nulli-
fiesthe classic stereotype of demen-
tia patients as empty shells.
"You can't say, 'This is the way
Alzheimer's patients are,' " Ross
said. "A sense of humor is still there,
a joy of life, an appreciation of the
arts and the senses and so on. It's all
Kids relax at Saturday's event held in conjunction with the radio-a-thon on Friday to raise money for Mott Children's Hospital
Softball advances to Super Regional
GEO meets with
'U,' grad students
to have $150,000
By GIACOMO BOLOGNA
Last week, University Provost
Philip Hanlon approved the rec-
ommendations of a joint com-
mittee regarding the childcare
subsidies of student parents.
Prior to the approval, only stu-
dents with spouses working or
attending school for 20 or more
hours could receive a childcare
subsidy. Throughout the year, the
Graduate Employees Organiza-
tion Parents' Caucus met with
University administrators in the
hopes of expanding this subsidy.
Now, Graduate Student Instruc-
tors and Graduate Student Staff
Assistants with a spouse work-
ing or attending school for 12 to
19 hours a week can also apply for
funds. According to the commit-
tee's recommendations, if a GSI
or GSSA's spouse works or attends
school for 12 to 15 hours a week,
he or she will be eligible to receive
$1,000 per semester for childcare.
If the spouse works or attends
school for 15 to 19 hours a week,
they will be eligible to receive up
to $1,250 per semester.
Students whose spouses work or
attend school for 20 or more hours
can receive between $2,250 and
$4,350 each semester, depending
on the number of children in their
A committee comprised of
three members of the GEO Par-
ents' Caucus and three Uni-
versity administrators made
the recommendations. The six-
member body had been meeting
monthly following last summer's
contract negotiations between
GEO and the University before
submitting its recommendations
to the provost.
University spokesman Rick
Fitzgerald said the committee
accomplished its goal.
"I think everyone is pleased
with this recommendation,"
Fitzgerald said. "The process
worked effectively ... working
together to find a solution that
everyone involved thought would
Fitzgerald added that the com-
mittee functioned to provide
recommendations rather than
hashing out issues between GEO
See CHILDCARE, Page 2
olverines knock And from the moment Louis-
ville pitcher Tori Collins threw
f host Louisville the first pitch at 1:04 P.M.on Sun-
day, the No. 21 Michigan softball
NCAA Regional team dominated each and every
By GREG GARNO The Wolverines (42-15) used
Daily Sports Writer consistent pitching from fresh-
man left-hander Haylie Wagner,
UISVILLE, Kent. - One timely hitting by seniors Amanda
at a time. Chidester and Bree Evans, solid
chigan coach Carol defense from senior third-base-
iins preaches the motto man Stephanie Kirkpatrick and
e, during and after every smart base running all around to
"I thought our kids were bril-
liant in one area in particular,
and it was one-pitch softball,"
Hutchins said. "We harped on
that all day. We told them before
the game, 'don't worry about
whether we get (a win), just worry
about one pitch."'
It was the first game of the
weekend that Michigan didn't
need to win on a walk-off play.
Having already defeated No. 9
Louisville on Saturday afternoon,
the Wolverines had the added
See SOFTBALL, Page 7
VoiCXXI,No.13 2012TheMichigan Daily
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