Memories in the Making

Tools

by Jennifer Tomazic

OAK CREEK -- Mickey Young lived on a farm when she was a kid. She's 90 now, but the memories of riding horses are still fresh in her memory.

That wasn't always the case though for the Oak Creek woman. There was a time when her daughter, Jan Cera, says she was not herself and wasn't as animated. That ended when Young got involved in the Alzheimer's Association's Memories in the Making program.

"It's a program that allows them to creatively express themselves through painting but also through reminiscing," said program coordinator Nancy Armitage.

Once a week, Young and other women at her senior living facility draw and paint with an art facilitator and share memories. They've painted flowers, instruments, horses, and much more.

Cera saw a difference in her mother after she started the Memories in the Making program.

"Little by little I started noticing she was coming out of her shell again and it was just months later that I got my mom back," said Cera.

"It just gives you the thrill to know that you do something that looks nice that somebody would appreciate," said Young.

She works with art facilitator Ann Bear each week. After Young is down drawing, she shares a memory related to the picture she drew and Baer writes it on the back of the picture.

"They've taken to it like ducks in water. They're enjoying it, they get a lot out of it," said Cera.

Baer, too, says Young has become more articulate about her memories since they started working together.

The national program started in Milwaukee a year and a half ago and already there are 18 sights throughout the Greater Milwaukee area. Armitage helped to get it started and hopes she'll be able to expand it even more. Right now, the Memories in the Making program is at senior living facilities with a few Saturday sessions open to other community members.

Armitage says it works for people with any stage of Alzheimer's.

"To see the individual come back to life and get excited about remembering what happened and that someone is there to listen to them, it's a win win situation," said Armitage.

One way the program raises money for itself and for the Alzheimer's Association is through the Treasure, an art auction. Thirty Memories in the Making participants' drawings were selected and professional artists did their own redesigns of them. All of the art was auctioned off, raising $46,000 dollars.

Young had a self portrait included in the auction and someone in the family purchased it.

"Just looking at it and being so proud of her was great," said her daughter Cera. "She felt like a VIP and the program has been so good to her in so many ways."

For Cera, the program has meant beautiful artwork, treasured keepsakes, but most of all the 90-year-old mother she knows and loves.

"I enjoy coming. Everyone's really nice and I look forward to it," said Young.

For more information on the Memories in the Making program, log onto http://www.alz.org/sewi/in_my_community_20372.asp

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