Senior citizens at risk of dementia unleash creativity at CityU art gala

Yvonne Lee

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Twenty senior citizens at risk of developing dementia exhibit artworks developed during a joint City University of Hong Kong (CityU) project aimed at slowing down cognitive decline.
 
The works of the artists, who have an average age of 80 years old, will be showcased at the Grandpa Grandma Silver Strand Gala” exhibition at CityU from 20 to 28 September. The opening ceremony was held on 20 September.
 
The artists, one of whom has been diagnosed with dementia and the others are at high risk of developing mild cognitive impairments, participated in the year-long "Self-healing Expressive Art Workshop", an art intervention research project jointly organised by the Department of Applied Social Sciences of CityU, Art for All, and the Methodist Epworth Neighborhood Elderly Centre (Chai Wan). The project began in September 2013, and has been funded by the Ho Cheung Shuk Yuen Charitable Foundation.
 
The project investigated the relationship between the arts and the body, mind, spirit and holistic health among senior citizens; and explored ways of slowing down cognitive decline.
 
The participants, together with family members, social workers and health-care staff experienced various expressive art activities during the 120-hour workshop, for example, drawing, painting, paper-cutting, calligraphy, singing, photo-taking, and video-shooting, among others.
 
Students from the Department of Applied Social Sciences and the School of Creative Media (SCM) at CityU, and SCM alumni, too, participated in the project. The facilitators during the workshop sessions were musicians, art therapists, visual artists, video and performing artists, photographers, Chinese ink artists and drama tutors from Art for All.
 
“The artists have opened themselves up to express their emotional experience in a creative, non-verbal way using multiple expressive arts modalities,” said Dr Anna Hui Na-na, Associate Professor in CityU’s Department of Applied Social Sciences. “In the process, we have observed the enhancement of their subjective wellbeing, their positive self-concept and optimistic attitude, which can revive their memory. In addition, participating CityU students and alumni have enhanced their understanding of older adulthood and life adjustment.”
 
Before the workshop, many of the workshop participants did not know how to draw, write calligraphy or shoot video. Now they can use various tools reflect on their emotions and reconcile the past in a safe and imaginative space.
 
“Everyone is their own stories’ protagonist, important and indispensable,” said Dr Evelyna Liang Yi-wu, Chairperson of Art for All.
 
The artists each had different experiences. Ms Lam Ching-lin, one of the artists, said, “I enjoy painting as it makes me feel very happy.” Ms But Fung-kiu said she drew the Atlantic Ocean because she hoped she would go on a cruise one day.
 
The public are welcome to visit the exhibition and share the artists’ stories and talents.
 
Exhibition Period:
20 to 27 September 2014 (10am to 9pm daily)
28 September 2014 (10am to 5pm)
 
Exhibition Venue:
4/F, Purple Zone, Academic 1, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong.

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