“What does the fall time remind you of?” an older man living with memory loss was asked. He had trouble finding his words, but was gently encouraged to keep going. “Diversity of the leaves….like diversity of people.”

Later, he was asked about his painting. He gestured to the veins in his hand, then to the veins in the leaf. “We’re all the same,” he said.

Everyone is, or will be, affected by memory loss in some way, whether you are helping a loved one, supporting a friend, or navigating it on your own.

While Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death for older adults in the United States, it is both possible and common to live for 10-20 years after a diagnosis. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s or other dementias, but there are ways to continue to lead a fulfilling life.

Meaningful engagement in the arts reduces anxiety, depression, and apathy—all symptoms associated with memory loss—while increasing confidence and the quality of a person’s life. What’s more, the arts act as a backdoor entry to past memories and can inspire new ones.

The Memory Maker Project was originally created in 2014 by Christina Muscatello, an art educator with more than a decade of experience working with people who have Alzheimer’s, and Kim Evanoski, a dementia certified social worker and owner of Care Manage for All. They realized that in our current culture, the doors remain open for someone with Alzheimer’s or another kind of dementia to doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and home, while doors to movie theaters, museums, galleries, and theaters gradually shut.

Christina and Kim started the Memory Maker Project to open up those doors and makes art and cultural programs accessible to people living with memory loss. We bring joy into their lives through respectful interactions, threading conversations between the arts and our participants’ personal stories. We meet people where they are—we don’t see a patient or a disease; we see a vibrant person with as much to offer us as we can offer them.

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