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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creative expression, dementia and the therapeutic environment Gottlieb-Tanaka, Dalia


This study aims to explore the physical environment in arriving at an understanding of the administration of and level of success of creative expression programs that were carried out with seniors who have mild cognitive impairment to moderate dementia at the L ‘Chaim Centre and at the Margaret Fulton Centre, two adult day care centres. I am interested in the circumstances that enhance or limit the seniors’ ability to express themselves creatively. Understanding the physical, cognitive and social abilities of this population helps establish the foundation for strategies that can manifest themselves in the shape and form of the physical environment. The physical envelope that surrounds the seniors, spiritually, emotionally and physically, embodies the reflection of the seniors’ world whether at home, in a residential setting or in institutional care. This envelope could serve as a therapeutic environment that fits with one of my long-term goals: To provide opportunities for creative expression activities with educational components that are supported with appropriate architectural planning and design. This study is based on qualitative research in which a/r/tography is employed as the overall philosophical approach and as a methodology for data collection. A/r/tography seeks knowledge through relational conditions, living inquiry and a commitment from the researcher as an artist and educator to a process of questioning. It also invites participants to be part of the study process and experience an ongoing process of inquiry. This method fits well with the making of architecture as practice and theory. The research shows that the physical environment has the potential to attract seniors with dementia to stay in the space and become engaged in creative expression activities. But the space alone is not enough to engage the seniors in these activities. Success in implementing a creative expression program is linked strongly with an understanding of the seniors’ physical and cognitive abilities and with the commitment of the facilitator to implement a flexible approach to each individual.

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