Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia who live at Dominion Senior Living in Sevierville find pride and purpose in an art program.
When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a family member’s first instinct might be to take away or limit the activities and hobbies their loved one once enjoyed. At Dominion Senior Living of Sevierville, seniors and those with memory impairment find their lives enriched by many purpose-filled activities. The senior living community believes in providing meaningful and productive activities for all seniors, and they have created an innovative creative therapy program called Art from the Heart. Bonnie Parton, whose home office is located in Sevierville, leads the program and also visits the Johnson City location to provide interactive and meaningful art experiences. Residents have the opportunity to create oil paintings which are featured in the senior living community’s annual art show, make crafts, or attend a cooking class. Parton, who has painted most of her life, breaks down these hands-on activities step-by-step. She is also the Life Enrichment Director for the Sevierville community. Creating art improves cognition, reduces stress and anxiety, offers sensory stimulation and increases self-esteem in seniors, and residents are experiencing these benefits each time they participate in the program.
“There is a misconception that seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, cannot do meaningful or productive things,” said Parton. “I’ve discovered that if you break down the steps of a project and make them simple and not overwhelming, like using only one color of paint at a time, seniors are able to have an enjoyable experience and be proud of their work. Many residents are hesitant to believe they have any artistic abilities, but they walk away with masterpieces. When their families see their art, they are truly amazed.”
Dominion Senior Living structures activities so that residents continue to feel purpose no matter their ability. While many senior living communities might be hesitant to let their residents cook, Dominion Senior Living encourages this by hosting a weekly cooking class in which residents work together to create food like nachos, fruit salad or ice cream sundaes. The residents chop, scoop and measure their own ingredients just like they would at home, and prepare the dish with pride. Residents also find purpose through activities that give back to others. Seniors in Sevierville create dresses for orphans in Africa, and residents help pick out the fabric, cut the patterns and donate the dresses.
“There are occasions when the adult children of our residents will pull me aside and thank me and the senior living community for believing their parent is able to do things many others think they cannot,” said Parton. “The residents are so proud of themselves, and they often share their works of art or crafts with their relatives and friends. Those who have memory impairment already lose so much with the disease. We want them to feel self-confidence and ownership in all areas of their lives, and that starts with believing that they are still capable of doing great things and allowing them to do those things.”
“We’ve seen first-hand how traditional senior living communities can diminish how seniors feel about themselves,” said Josh Crisp, vice president of Dominion Senior Living. “Our goal is to create a place that honors seniors lives by providing purpose through mental, physical and spiritual fulfillment. We feel that by empowering seniors to continue the activities they love or to try something new, they’re able to lead lives that they’re proud of, and as a result, it positively affects their overall health and happiness.”
Dominion Senior Living is based in Knoxville, with locations in Sevierville and Johnson City. Construction is currently underway on locations in Crossville, Athens, and Bristol, and they recently expanded into Richmond and Frankfort, Ky.
Photo: Dominion Senior Living of Sevierville resident Mrs. Dorothy creates an oil painting in a class led by Dominion Senior Living’s Art from the Heart Program Director and the Sevierville Life Enrichment Director Bonnie Parton.