For some people living with Alzheimer’s art can be therapeutic. (Alisa Howlett/News staff)

Art therapy programs in Sidney making a positive impact on people with Alzheimer’s

The SHOAL Centre in Sidney offers a wide variety of programs for people with brain disease and memory disorders.

Alisa Howlett/News staff

A few simple things – a little paint, some clay and an array of coloured markers – can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially for a person with Alzheimer’s.

For the last year-and-a-half Robert Cyr, 69, has been faithfully attending Arts and Alzheimer’s every Wednesday at the SHOAL Centre in Sidney.

The activity is just what the name suggests; it’s an opportunity for caregivers and people living with Alzheimer’s to get together for a few hours for an afternoon of art. Some past activities have included painting, working with clay and making mobiles.

Cyr’s wife Leah, 67, happily drops off Robert, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, every week.

“He just loves it. He has so much fun,” says Leah. “He’s totally dependent on me. This gives him some independence and it helps break his dependence on me.”

Up until a few years ago Robert was an avid guitar player. Leah says she recalls the jam sessions her husband would have every week; but within the last few years, Leah says Robert gave up playing completely, as he would forget the songs. He even gave away his guitar. Now, every Wednesday, Robert shows up new guitar in tow and strums and sings for the rest of the arts group.

“There’s a lot of challenges in their lives … this is a place they can get together and set aside all those things and just have fun with their friends,” says Marjorie Moulton, executive director of We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation.

“That’s really important because I think that sort of slowly slips away.”

Moulton, who also runs the arts group along with some volunteers, adds that there is lots of research that supports art therapy.

“It activates a different part of the brain, the creative side instead of the executive function. This allows them to succeed because they’re being creative.”

And this is enough for Leah and Robert. The arts program runs for nine months of the year, with a break in the summer; and Leah expresses her lamentation of that fact.

“He needs and loves this new expression … ten weeks is too long.”

For more, visit the SHOAL website at

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