India Kirssin | Staff Writer

National Art Honor Society students are using art to bridge a multi-generational gap.

A new collaboration between NAHS, the Opening Minds Through Art Program and the Mason Christian Village will allow the members of NAHS to make a difference in their community.

OMA is an intergenerational art program for people with dementia, a disorder caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders and personality changes.

OMA Assistant Director Elizabeth Rohrbaugh said the key to the program’s success is focusing on what its elders can do, not what they can’t.

“OMA is founded on strengths-based psychology: Capitalizing on what people with dementia still can do,” Rohrbaugh said. “The OMA art-making process involves carefully staged steps aimed at maximizing the possibility of creative expression.”

Rohrbaugh said another reason OMA artists thrive is because the program allows them to make their own choices.

“Too often everything is decided for people with dementia,” Rohrbaugh said. “Magic happens during OMA when the elders are given autonomy and the choices are theirs. They are creatively and socially engaged, and feel accomplished.”

Rohrbaugh said that while OMA is an art program, the participants benefit the most from the relationships they build.

“The elders receive individual attention from someone of the younger generation and the youth bring an energy that is lacking in most long-term care facilities,” Rohrbaugh said. “The students benefit from the interaction with the older generation in that the elders often become teachers​ and instill life lessons of patience, empathy, and genuine concern for others.”

As part of the younger generation, senior Carson James said she is excited to learn more about dementia and interact with the person she is paired with.

“Not only will I learn about the disease, but I will learn more about the people involved with OMA, specifically (the) one that I’m assigned to for the next couple of months,” James said.

James said NAHS is a great mixture of art and service and she loves the impact it has on those around her.

“I love art and volunteering and it’s the perfect combination,” James said. “I love seeing us come together to accomplish great things within not only the school, but the community.”

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