Ricky Rodriguez, a graduate student at Full Sale University, recently included Brookdale in part of his thesis project, a blog called Artistic Native, which examines the role that art plays in aging. Rodriguez visited Brookdale Carrollwood in Tampa, Fla. to document residents participating in a painting class led by Arleen Mariotti, who’s been teaching there for about a year. Rodriguez created a pair of videos featuring Brookdale residents and wrote an article about the benefits of art for older adults, including those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
“I want to educate the readers and also raise awareness on the many health benefits a person can have when engaging in the arts,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to inform the people that any art-related activity or program has the power to heal and that art in any form is medicine, and how it can enhance and impact our well-being and enrich the quality of our lives as we age. I felt that many people aren't well informed about the health benefits of the arts, so I based my project on that topic after working on a documentary for someone based on Dementia.”
Carrollwood’s art classes are an example of the many ways Brookdale engages residents in the arts. Many Brookdale communities offer music therapy, drawing, painting and crafts. All Brookdale communities are encouraged to participate in the annual Celebrate Aging Film Festival, in which residents and associates work together to write, shoot and edit their own short films.
“The ones that are engaged are always seeming enthusiastic; more outgoing, just looking forward to things, happy, talkative, wanting to show what they’ve done.” said Sharon Poitier, resident programs manager at Brookdale Carrollwood. “Before Arleen got here a lot of them were very reluctant. Then to see that they can do it is very gratifying.”
While researching his project Rodriguez connected with several experts on aging and dementia. He said they all agree that art engagement can enhance cognitive function by providing a sense of purpose and reducing isolation and depression.
“I learned about music therapy and how playing music to an older adult who requires assistance can activate positive memories and makes them feel good and energetic,” Rodriguez said. “I also learn how visual art especially painting helps the elderly with sensory stimulation, and movement with the brush provide them with a sense of control.”