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Seniors' Creativity Can Thrive Despite Dementia
Date:9/4/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- No one thought Sherry S., a 91-year-old former sociologist with dementia-related short-term memory loss, could write.

But one Wednesday afternoon, Sherry wandered into a writing workshop at a community center in Albuquerque, N.M., and proceeded to astonish the group with her story about Homer the Artistic Turtle.

"Although [Homer] is not required to be cheerful, he tries to be interesting partly because who wants an uninteresting turtle?" Sherry wrote, adding that Homer clearly was "artistic and color-conscious" because "he prefers green lettuce with purple coloring on the sides."

Homer was also a writer, having penned a book on turtle senior living. "He should be well known in his field, which is not very crowded," Sherry wrote. "There is an unfortunate lack of interest in turtle well-being."

The writing surprised Sherry's daughter, Scott Sandlin.

"She's always been a good writer, but it's interesting to me that she's retained that skill even while other parts of memory diminish," Sandlin said.

But the feat likely would not have surprised Anne Basting, who is director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Basting has pioneered writing and other arts programs for people living with dementia.

"People look at dementia as loss and deficit. They never assume people with dementia can grow or learn anything [but] that's what we're witnessing: growth and expression and skill-building," she said.

"[Humans] have this enormous capacity to learn, and the arts are so intrinsic within us that even with dementia we still retain that ability for imagination and creativity," added Gay Hanna, executive director of the National Center for Creative Aging, in Washington, D.C.

With baby boomers inevitably progressing toward old age and sometimes dementia as well, there is a growing nee
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