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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jerry Joley cuts a piece of glass for a fusing project with the help of instructor Juanita Miller at the Community Center downtown. It's part of the Unwind Your Mind program designed for people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jerry Joley lines up pieces of glass that he cut for a fusing project with the help of Juanity Miller, an instructor for Unwind Your Mind, and the Community Center. The program is designed for people with Alzheimers or dementia. With Video

Monday, June 19, 2017 1:00 am

Program keeping minds active

Community Center helping those with dementia

Kathi Weiss | For The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: Alzheimer's Association's The Longest Day

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Community Center, 233 W. Main St.

Activities: Event includes entertainment; arts such as pottery and painting; a Historic Downtown Walking Tour at 1 p.m. for a $3 donation; games; and box lunches for $5

More info: For a schedule of classes and activities with the Unwind Your Mind program, go to www.fortwayneparks.org or call 427-6461

On the Web To see a video of participants in the Unwind Your Mind program, go to www.journalgazette.net

When Patti Davis, manager of the Community Center in downtown Fort Wayne, began the Unwind Your Mind program, she did so with a unique perspective.

The program, which offers classes and activities for people with early signs of dementia, started with her mother, Karen, as an impetus and inspiration.

Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2010 at the age of 68.

At the time, there were no programs offered at the center for people with dementia. Davis decided she could offer programs to address the needs of those affected by dementia.

“The program gives the opportunity for people in the area to connect with others with Alzheimer's, as well as for the caregivers to connect,” Davis says. “We have people from Ohio coming to the program.”

In cooperation with the Fort Wayne Alzheimer's Association, the Unwind Your Mind programs began in January 2016 and now incorporate many activities, including acrylic painting, clay pottery, glass fusing, bingo, gardening and walking groups. Participants also enjoy the Monday luncheons and Tuesday movies at the center, which are open to the general public.

“The person with dementia is so excited about the projects they've completed,” Davis says. “We even have a pen that they can use to sign their projects. They can then give the glass projects as gifts. When they see their project, they get a boost to their confidence. They see themselves as capable … this is a big emotional boost.

“When they are first diagnosed, they sometimes get depressed. They think of the things they are losing. When they see that they can complete an art project, they feel better about themselves.”

Davis says there are about 40 participants in the program. The programs will be expanded in the fall to include music and therapeutic horseback riding. She says the program will involve music appreciation and include a local vocalist who will work with the participants for five weeks. The participants will then perform at an event.

“The arts and music keeps their minds active,” Davis says. Studies have shown that arts, crafts, computers and social activities help slow mild cognitive loss by up to 50 percent, according to the program information.

The Community Center is also partnering with Kingston Healthcare and Active Day of Fort Wayne in the Longest Day. The Alzheimer's awareness event will take place Wednesday – the summer solstice – at the center, 233 W. Main St. This event is part of a global awareness movement to help end Alzheimer's disease.

The Longest Day will include entertainment, a historic downtown walking tour and sing-alongs, as well as ongoing activities at the Community Center like shuffleboard, a relaxation station (coloring to music) and painting expression with music.

What began as a personal journey for Davis has become a community-building project for families coping with Alzheimer's. And with the ever-increasing numbers of an aging population, this approach could just be on the cutting edge of programming.

More than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer's in the United States. In Indiana, 110,000 residents ages 65 and older have Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. That number is expected to increase by 20,000 by 2025.