A partnership between the Mann Older Adult Community Center, Taller Puertorriqueno and the Alzheimer’s Association is helping keep the minds of Fairhill’s senior community active. The collaborators are attempting to keep the aggressive Alzheimer’s disease at bay through an art program, “Memories in the Making.”
Alzheimer’s is a progressive and incurable disease. It robs the mind of precious memories and intellect, and shouldn’t be confused with the normal process of aging. Although the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are age 65 or older, early onset Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s. Research by the Alzheimer’s Association has shown that after age 85, the chance of developing Alzheimer’s reaches 50 percent.
To help in the fight, the Mann Adult Center’s art teacher, Alicia Mino, leads a group of about a dozen seniors — some already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s — for two hours every Friday morning in the center’s auditorium.
“Painting helps the seniors remember a time they can’t express through talking,” Mino said. “Instead, they put their words into painting, and relax and focus. It’s an alternative language.”
To get the seniors in the mood to paint, Mino recites poetry and asks her students comprehensive questions for retention. After the poetry readings, Mino begins an extensive art history lesson.
“I set the atmosphere with the poetry,” Mino said. “The art lesson gives them a clue about how to paint and the technique of watercoloring and acrylic painting.”
Ramona Soto, a 73-year-old student painter, has been experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s for the past few years. Soto said she is not discouraged and takes pleasure in her artwork and friends. Her most recent work of art was a painting of beautiful horses grazing in an open field.
“I like it here,” Soto said. “I like seeing my friends.”
Mino said her students were shy and insecure during class at first, but have grown comfortable and relaxed while painting.
“They’ve gone from creating really small paintings to large paintings now,” Mino said. “They’re doing great work.”