Deborah Hathaway (center) listens to student Lianna Park speak to Tollahe Baharu about his essay during class at the University of Washington Bothell. Students will participate in a new program for people with early-stage memory loss at Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Deborah Hathaway (center) listens to student Lianna Park speak to Tollahe Baharu about his essay during class at the University of Washington Bothell. Students will participate in a new program for people with early-stage memory loss at Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Elders, UW students learn from each other at Edmonds center

“Making Art Together” is for adults with early stage memory loss, their caregivers and UW freshmen.

A new class at Edmonds Center for the Arts aims to enrich both college freshmen and elders in the early stages of memory loss.

“Making Art Together” is an intergenerational course meant to give classmates a chance to reflect on challenges — either those they face now or those they’ve experienced in the past. The theme of the six-week class is “Beginnings.”

“It’s more of a positive theme,” said Jen Kulik, chief executive of Silver Kite Community Arts in Seattle, who designed the class. “Every beginning of a new phase of life there are challenges as well as joys.”

Those in the early stages of dementia often find that their short-term memory is not as accessible as memories from 20, 30 or 40 years ago, so “this is an opportunity for the elders to share some wisdom” with first-year students from the University of Washington Bothell, she said. The goal is for both groups to listen to and learn from each other.

College freshmen and dementia patients both are experiencing a new stage in their lives. Sharing their feelings in class may help both deal with their next phase of life.

“What we’re trying to build here is an intergenerational experience for both elders and youth to be teachers and learners and also be vulnerable together,” Kulik said.

The older adults’ memories and stories will be collected to create a short performance that will be shared with the UW students. No memorization is necessary. The students will respond with a performance of their own on what they’ve learned. Each performance will be about two to 10 minutes.

“The goal here is not to come up with a Broadway sort of performance,” Kulik said.

Don’t let the label “early-stage memory loss” be a barrier to signing up. Adults and their caretakers are welcome if they feel they’re up for a 90-minute class, Kulik said.

From left, Deborah Hathaway, Sofonias Shiferawand Michah Dizon listen to Alex Andreeva in a class that combines creative writing and acting. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

From left, Deborah Hathaway, Sofonias Shiferawand Michah Dizon listen to Alex Andreeva in a class that combines creative writing and acting. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Edmonds Center for the Arts has organized dementia-inclusive activities and workshops since 2015. But this is the first time one of these classes has been offered for free.

“This is one of the instances where coming with a care partner is really beneficial,” said Gillian Jones, the arts center’s director of programming. “Both get a respite from everyday routine.”

The arts center contacted UW Bothell about how student curriculum could connect with its programs, Jones said.

Deborah Hathaway teaches an interdisciplinary course at UW Bothell that combines creative writing with acting. The theme of the ECA’s intergenerational course, “Beginnings,” applies just as much to the 30 students in her class as the older adults, she said.

“They’re in the first quarter of their freshman year,” she said. “There’s a lot of ‘What am I doing with my life?’”

Hathaway said she thought a lot about asking her new-to-college students to register for the “Making Art Together” class.

Although it may have some moments of intensity, Hathaway said she feels it could transform their college experience. That, she said, “far outweighs any fear I have of it being overwhelming.”

Silver Kite, the Seattle arts organization, began offering a variety of intergenerational programs in 2014. It now provides those services to some 8,000 people a year.

This year the business received an innovation award from Generations United, a Washington, D.C., group that works to improve lives through intergenerational collaboration.

One memory-loss patient at a Silver Kite dance class told Kulik: “I feel like for a time I don’t have this disease.”

“Just having some time to have fun is such an important thing,” Kulik said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

“Making Art Together”

The intergenerational class is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 30, Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Nov. 18, Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds. Free. The class is intended for those with early-stage memory loss and their caregivers. For more information, including how to register, contact Katie Newbaum via 425-275-9485 or katie@ec4arts.org.

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