Opening Minds Through Art

Creative expression through art can have significant benefits for the physical and psychological wellbeing of people with dementia.

Opening Minds through Art, or “OMA”, is a proven art program for people with dementia. It was originally developed at Scripps Gerontology Centre at Miami University and integrated into the Club 36 Adult Day Program in 2014.

OMA places the person with dementia at the centre of the art process.

The goal is to experience autonomy, choice and to be immersed in a failure-free environment.

The OMA program breaks down generational and cognitive barriers by bringing together young and old in a unique collaboration. Members of our Club 36 Adult Day Program are partnered with nursing students from the University of Calgary and work together over a number of sessions. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership where meaningful relationships and learning opportunities emerge. 

“One of the most valuable learnings is that people with dementia may not remember who you are, but they will always remember how you made them feel,” says one Faculty of Nursing student from the University of Calgary.

The goal is creating art in a failure-free environment

Nursing students receive Opening Minds through Art training and dementia care strategies from the Alzheimer Society of Calgary’s certified professionals. Then they’re partnered with a Club 36 member. Together, they work to bring the person’s creativity to surface.

The students learn how to work at a comfortable distance, learning when to provide support and when to step back and let the person work independently. The Club member can make manageable decisions at each stage, which can be an empowering and refreshing change from everyday life.

“OMA provides the opportunity for people living with dementia to build their confidence, create meaningful relationships and strengthen their self-autonomy,” Ali Cada, Director, Adult Day and Creative Programs, Alzheimer Society of Calgary

Christine Foran, Nursing Practice Instructor at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Nursing, has observed her students’ personal and professional growth during the program as well.  “As a nursing instructor, I am provided with the opportunity to witness the progression of students and the mastery in choosing different strategies to help clients get through difficult moments – from deciding to sit down and join the activity, to choose different colours for their artwork, and interacting with other group members,” she says.

“The ‘aha’ moments that students discuss are processes they will take into their nursing careers, developing awareness, sensitivity and compassion in their future relationships for all – and especially with people with dementia.”


Canada’s first certified OMA training centre

In October 2018, the Alzheimer Society of Calgary became the first OMA training centre in Canada. People working in Adult Day Programs and dementia care settings can now obtain certification through us in Calgary instead of travelling to the U.S.

To learn more, contact us.

By 2019, more than 70 individuals across Alberta working in Adult Day Programs, long term care and other settings providing dementia care had been trained to deliver OMA in their own setting.


Further Information
Video: See art in action at Club 36