Art for Brain Health project offers hope to Nigerians


In commemoration of World Alzheimer’s Day, Kunle Adewale’s new project called “Arts for Brain Health” aims to deploy artistic creativity to improve opportunities for social engagement for people with dementia. Yinka Olatunbosun writes

From 1995 to 2015, the number of dementia cases in Nigeria increased by more than 400%, according to experts. In many homes, the early signs are often ignored or simply ignored as part of the aging process.

But in reality, dementia – the generic name for chronic brain diseases – is characterized by deterioration in cognitive function. Caused by damaged brain cells, the most visible sign is memory loss.

Dementia often affects general thinking, orientation, comprehension, numeracy, ability to learn, language, and judgment. Elderly people with dementia in Nigeria are frequently victims of neglect and abuse, and suffer from loneliness, depression and stigma.

These, combined with the lack of effective pharmacological treatments worldwide, require psychosocial interventions to lessen the effects of dementia and improve quality of life.

While art cannot cure dementia, it provides a coping mechanism for patients. Arts-based interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing negative psychological and psychosocial effects. This is where the Arts for Brain Health project comes in.

The project, whose artistic director is Nigerian social entrepreneur and visual artist, Kunle Adewale, aims to use artistic creativity to enhance opportunities for social engagement for people with dementia, ultimately transforming the care experiences of people with dementia. health of patients, professional caregivers and family members, with long-term ambitions to reduce stigma and promote holistic approaches to treatment.

The project will benefit 20 healthcare providers and 60 people with dementia and dementia in Nigeria. The participants in the project would be recruited through a partnership with the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital of Yaba, Lagos, the GABI Williams Alzheimer Foundation, the Arts in Medicine scholarship.

According to Adewale, participants will choose either the Fine Arts track or the Performance arts track. Each will consist of a weekly two-hour session. The artists will collaborate with professional caregivers to help them learn to engage with patients using an art form.

For the fine arts track, participants will be engaged in arts and crafts, making murals and digital painting through the use of iPad. The participants’ sessions will be led by junior artists who will serve as project assistants and who will master the use of each medium.

Music and dance will be included in the performing arts track with the young community of musicians.

“We will also explore the impact of music at the individual level through the use of iPods. Project staff will help create playlists of favorite songs on iPods for each participant, ” Adewale revealed.

The project also includes the arts of virtual reality as a form of observation of artistic engagement. The VR experience will be organized to include works of art, nature photographs and photographs of beautiful places in Nigeria, providing participants with a culturally relevant therapeutic experience.

Adewale is a health practitioner and arts advocate with over seven years of experience facilitating artistic engagements for different populations in Nigeria, including people with dementia and cognitive impairment.

In February 2020, Adewale partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada (NCNN) to facilitate therapeutic virtual art for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Adewale leads Pop-Up Arts Sessions, an initiative of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center for Community Brain Health in San Francisco.

Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, University of California, San Francisco,

The artist led a 3D virtual art exhibition titled “Uplifting Spirits” which explored how art can change perceptions and understanding of aging in a way that complements scientific research. This event showcased and sold his work to raise funds for NCNN.

With support from the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer Society, and the Global Brain Health Institute for the Arts for Brain Health, the artist will help broaden the field of artistic interventions with the elderly, especially those with dementia. or other cognitive impairments, while consolidating existing relationships with nursing homes and non-profit organizations in Nigeria.

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