AS the world marks World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21, artist Kunle Adewale continues his work fusing arts with health with a new initiative.
The ‘Art for Brain Health’ project by the artist and health practitioner
aims to use artistic creativity to improve social engagement opportunities for people living with dementia, ultimately transforming patients’ healthcare experiences, professional caregivers, and family members.
The project’s long-term ambitions are to reduce stigma and promote whole-person approaches to treating individuals living with cognitive disorders.
While art cannot cure dementia, studies have shown it may provide a coping mechanism for affected persons. Indeed, arts-based interventions are effective in reducing adverse psychological and psychosocial outcomes. This is why the artist, who holds a certificate in Understanding Dementia from the University College London (UCL) and a Medicine and the Arts: Humanizing Healthcare certificate from the University of Cape Town, has come up with this new project.
The Arts for Brain Health Project will benefit 20 health providers and 60 persons with cognitive impairments and dementia in Nigeria.
Speaking on its execution, Adewale, a senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, University of California, San Francisco, explained that participants would be recruited through partnerships with the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos GABI Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation and Arts in Medicine Fellowship.
Participants, he added, will participate in either the “Fine Arts or Performance Arts Track. Each will comprise a two-hour weekly session. Across both tracks, the interventions will explore and be personalized by these themes: Nature, Culture, Religion, Family, Love, Hope, Happiness and Community. Throughout sessions, we will work with the professional caregivers as participants and help them learn how to engage with the patients through art. “
Giving specifics, Adewale said the ‘Art for Brain Health’ comprised four main legs. These are Fine Arts Track, during which participants will engage in arts and crafts, mural making and digital painting through iPads. It would be facilitated by junior artists skilled in the use of each medium.
Participants will be engaged in a music and dance sing-along for the performing arts track, incorporating live band experiences with young community musicians. Musical experiences for the group will be based on patient preferences and will include their favourite songs. It will also explore the impact of music on an individual level through the use of iPods.
The Virtual Reality Arts component of the project will explore virtual reality as an observational form of arts engagement for participants. The VR experience will be curated to include works of art, photographs of nature, and photographs of beautiful places in Nigeria, providing participants with a therapeutic experience that is culturally relevant.
The last, Arts for Brain Health Exhibition & Music Concert, will celebrate the creativity of persons with dementia and professional caregivers in the program. It will feature participants’ family members via phone calls and emails.
The ‘Art for Brain Health’ initiative is not Adewale’s first involvement in mental health. Last year, he partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada (NCNN) to facilitate therapeutic virtual art for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 19, 2021, he led a 3D virtual art exhibition titled ‘Uplifting Spirits’ that explored how art can change the perceptions and understanding of ageing in a way that complements scientific investigations.
Through the support of the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Society, and the Global Brain Health Institute for the Arts for Brain Health, Adewale will further his expertise in the area of arts interventions with older adults, specifically those living with dementia or other cognitive impairments through this project.
Future collaborators will include academic/NGOs, care homes, the Ministry of Health, Creative Ageing Int’l, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Global Brain Health Institute, the UCSF Memory and Aging Centre, Alzheimer’s Association, and diplomatic missions in Nigeria.
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