Now Showing: Alzheimer’s Comes to Capitol Hill

I’ve been writing regularly about the dramatic impact the creative arts – acting, dancing, singing, making music and art, songwriting, and composing stories and poems – can have on those with Alzheimer’s. But don’t just take my word for it.

Research experts, dancers, actors, storytellers and songwriters will attest to its magic next Thursday, Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C., including on Capitol Hill. The day-long event is cosponsored by the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and the National Center for Creative Aging.

On the program are free interactive performances for, and demonstrations with, people who have dementia and their family caregivers. Memory Arts Café events, as they are called, will take place around D.C., including at an assisted living facility and adult day care center.

Among the events next week is an exhibit of artwork and poetry created by people living with dementia (in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill), along with a panel briefing down the hall of heavy hitters (folks from the National Endowment for the Arts, lawmakers who coauthored the National Alzheimer’s Plan Act, staffers from the National Center for Creative Aging and the top creative arts groups) on the latest findings in the field.

My favorites: New Mexico poet Stuart Hall will read his work about living with dementia, and the directors of Kairos Dance, Songwriting Works and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project will create a new performance with audience members.

For a sneak preview of the creative arts groups involved in next week’s events, check out Kairos Dance in action, a clip from Songwriting Works, the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and TimeSlips storytelling.

The best part may be that all dementia arts events next week are free, with no reservations required. (Applaud here.)

Besides spreading the word about the arts movement, educators and experts want to make the point that even if you have Alzheimer’s, you can still be creative and productive – and have fun.

What’s more, caregivers and long-term care staff see the positives for dementia participants: increased concentration, less anxiety, enhanced memory, and improved mood, among others. Caregivers, too, get to step out of their role, albeit briefly, and enjoy the experience with their loved ones, perhaps getting glimpses of the parent, spouse or relative they used to know.

True, these events are geared to the Alzheimer’s demographic, but the cognitively intact can also benefit, and derive great pleasure, from the same activities.

Here’s my personal encore: the creative arts movement is broad. You can get similar benefits from interactive, dementia-specific discussions about works of art at many museums, like the Museum of Modern Art, and a classic movies program being replicated nationwide.

Follow Sally Abrahms at www.sallyabrahms or on Twitter.