The Andy Warhol Museum Teams Up with Pitt’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center

By: Cristina Mestre and Tim Betler

For the first time, Pitt’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC) is expanding a program that brings adults suffering from dementia to the Andy Warhol Museum to tour the museum, take part in an arts and crafts activity, and to foster discussions about art.
The program for ADRC participants began in 2010 with activities surrounding a visit from Brazilian artist José Rufino, whose work deals with memory and the concept of interpersonal loss.  The following year, the Warhol-ADRC partnership was solidified through the creation of the A HA! (Art, Health & Alzheimer ’s disease) initiative, which seeks to explore ways in which the worlds of art and Alzheimer’s disease research can come together to promote creativity, raise public awareness of the disease, and sustain or improve well-being among persons or families affected by dementia. The central part of this partnership has been a program whereby groups of patients and caregivers participate in a creative expression project involving a combination of museum and studio activities at the Warhol.
Now, the ADRC has opened up this program to the general public – offering the program to any local adults who are suffering from dementia.
In the video above, seniors from Orion Personal Care Residence and their caregivers tour the Warhol, participate in a silk screening activity, and sing along to classic songs by artists that inspired Andy Warhol. 
As ADRC social worker Thomas Baumgartner explains, activities like visiting the Warhol are great for patients with dementia since they allow for socialization and create a fun, stress-free environment.
“We don’t want Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients to retreat and be isolated,” he notes.  Dementia patients’ quality of life can improve through stimulating the brain, being engaged, participating in creative activities, and being social with others. “The great part about this program is that dementia patients feel comfortable being themselves in an environment where they know that others are also suffering memory loss.  They can feel alive and still enjoy activities.”

Dementiais a general term for the loss of cognitive abilities over time.  The loss of brain function can affect memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior. Alzheimer ’s disease is the most common form of dementia, though other forms include vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
The ADRC is one of 27 nationally funded centers to conduct research on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The center specializes in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other diseases through state-of-the-art diagnostic assessments, outpatient evaluations and patient education, and research initiatives such as clinical drug trials.
People interested in getting more information about the program can call MaryAnn Oakley, M.A., education and information coordinator at Pitt’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, at 412-692-2721.