Bringing Art to Life-Chicago Opens with New Innovations

Bringing Art to Life-Chicago (BATL-C), Cognitive Dynamics Foundation’s intergenerational expressive arts program for persons living with dementia and student partners, re-opened in July for the first time since the pandemic began. Again partnering with Chicago Methodist Senior Services, the program pairs residents who are living with dementia with student volunteers; this semester, we are working with students from Loyola University.

During the didactic portion of the class, students learn the neuroscience of Alzheimer’s and other dementias from Dr. Neelum Aggarwal, BATL-C lead faculty and Rush University neurologist, and BATL-C founder, Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN lectures about person-centered care, memory and the use of the expressive arts in dementia care.  Students experience virtual reality modules from Embodied Labs, which help to create empathic understanding for the lived experience of dementia and caregiving.

A new innovation this semester is a virtual museum experience in partnership with the Yale University Art Gallery, facilitated by their museum staff, with art directives to follow facilitated by art therapist, Angel C. Duncan, MA, MFT-ATR, Executive Arts Director of Cognitive Dynamics Foundation, who also lectures to the students about art therapy.

Students and their dementia partners will spend time in a sensory garden at CMSS, created in our last iteration of BATL-C, and some of the herbs will find their way into a meal for the program’s final celebratory dinner at the end of the semester.

BATL-C is made possible in part by a grant from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Research shows the program increases empathy in student participants and improves attitudes toward older adults and persons living with dementia.