No one has to walk the dementia journey alone.
In this video, members of Dementia Together and the Fort Collins Symphony discuss the B Sharp Arts Engagement Program and its research, which found powerful benefits for people living with dementia and their care partners from attending live symphony concerts.
Read the study results and contribute to the B Sharp Program at https://fcsymphony.org/bsharp.
Note: Transcript may have minor inacuracies.
Jeremy: Alrighty. Well thank you for joining us today, everybody listening and everybody here on the call. We’re, uh, we’re here with Dementia Together. Um, could you give us a quick introduction of, um, everybody here with us today?
Cyndy: Sure. I’m Cyndy Luzinski. I’m the founder and Executive Director of Dementia Together, and Meghan and Courtney are here with us and I’ll let them introduce themselves.
Meghan: I’m Megan, um, I’m the program coordinator at Dementia Together.
Courtney: And I am Courtney Walsh and my husband Brian, is early onset Alzheimer’s, and we are a, um, client of Dementia Together, or a participant, I should say, of Dementia Together.
Jeremy: And thank you everybody for being here. Cyndy, could you give us an overview of, of Dementia together, uh, quick history and, and what you all do?
Dementia Together intro
Cyndy: We started. Dementia Together, um, as that volunteer initiative back in 2015, and it has grown to become its own nonprofit organization with six employees, and we serve more than 2,150 people a year now through our three pillars of education, enrichment, and hope. So the mission of Dementia Together is to create communities in which no one has to walk the dementia journey alone.
And our vision is that living well with dementia is the expectation and not the exception. And through our education and our enrichment programming, we believe that’s how we can help people actually live well or live with lifelong wellbeing.
Jeremy: Yeah. So the B Sharp program has been going for a couple years could you give us an overview of what B Sharp is specifically?
B Sharp Program
As I said, B Sharp Arts Engagement Program started in 2015, and it was with the purpose of keeping people socially engaged, even when dementia was part of the journey.
In the initial seasons we did research with CSU and we looked at, for the people with dementia who were attending the symphony performances their cognition would be evaluated, their mood, and their sense of connection.
And what we found in that research initially was even though people with dementia had a progressive condition, there actually was an improvement in cognition for those who attended the symphony, which is pretty significant given that dementia tends to be progressive.
We also found out that uh, care partners who participated felt not just connected to one another and connected to the community, therefore having more hope, but also having more meaningful connection with their loved one, and they noticed that mood was improved with their loved ones after the, the symphony performances.
So the research has supported us continuing this program.
And one of the things that we consistently hear with our participants is that they love that sense of normalcy and being part of an event where it’s just, you know, going out on a date night or being part of a community where it’s not like they’re standing out in the crowd. They still can just feel normal, enjoy that music, and, um, leave inspired like everybody else does, who attends.
Courtney, do you wanna, um, do you wanna talk about your experience with bringing Brian to the symphony?
Courtney and Brian’s Experiences
Courtney: Sure. Um, it’s funny, you, you must have been reading my surveys. You just said everything I would’ve written. I, um, I,
Cyndy: it’s better coming from you.
Courtney: Yeah. I, I would say that, that the
biggest thing is that, um, it is one of the few activities that we’ve been able to do post-diagnosis or participate in, that is truly like going out on a date or having a special evening out and knowing that we won’t be met with anxiety and frustration and, um, it feels really good and it lifts our both of our spirits and um, we get to just feel normal in a crowd and not, we, we don’t feel any sense of anxiety about going and arriving and seating or any of it. And, um, because all of those things have been acknowledged and put into place, and so we arrive and everything’s set up so that it’s welcoming and um, uh, really a great reception coming in.
And we feel like we’re there on a social occasion with friends and, um, that comfort is established immediately when we come into that reception. People are recognized and there’s a very good sense of wellbeing, so it sets the evening off on the right foot. And when we go in and we’re in the whole crowd, we feel like we’re part of the audience and we don’t feel singled out.
And um, it doesn’t ever feel like special exceptions are made necessarily, just that we’re being brought into that. Um, and it’s amazing and the first time we went, it was just for my benefit mostly to see how that would go. And, um, it was the first one we saw, um, was happened to be an amazing show and, um, Brian was so happy when we left and it, it encouraged, um, conversation and engagement and talking about it even though we don’t particularly articulate really well, but just the level of excitement was obvious in spotting him on how much he enjoyed it. So much so that I actually played that, um, Stravinsky, um, the Firebird suite over and over and over for a couple weeks after we came because it was so fresh in his mind how much he enjoyed it.
So, um, we love it. And, um, there’s I think not a lot of activities that we do where we’re actually part of the bigger community and that’s important. So important. We do a lot of things that are selective within our group of people and it’s definitely the comfort and the isolation relief, but that just makes us feel like we’re in the big picture of things and that it’s normal ’cause there’s not a lot of those activities where we could go and feel confident and comfortable going in and feel good about being there.
Jeremy: Thank you so much for sharing that, Courtney. I’m tearing up a little bit.
Cyndy: Meghan, did you wanna talk about how, how it is when you’re greeting people? Meghan is the one where, um, that’s kind of at the door at the reception room and gives people their tickets when they get there typically. And so she gets to see their moods even as they’re arriving too, and, and also collect some of the survey results afterwards.
Meghan: Yeah, it’s fun to see everyone kind of dressed up a little bit. Um, and that’s some of the feedback that we get, that they enjoy having a reason to get dressed up, kind of like Courtney said, like almost for a date night. Um, and actually speaking of tears, one of our quotes that we got from, uh, a care partner was when she wondered if, um, her spouse could kind of share his thoughts on what, um, he thought about the concert he said, he simply said, with tears blowing up in his eyes, “it touched my heart and my brain.” Um, and we thought that yeah, was a completely powerful quote.
Um, We have also heard it’s something that people wouldn’t normally go out and do on their own. So being able to be given this opportunity, um, especially with the tickets underwritten, is really helpful and something that they absolutely love and we hear every season that we, they hope it continues.
Um, so as we do too, because we know that all of our people love it and I love seeing them. Like I said, get dressed up, have a night out, night out, an occasion to see other friends, um, and enjoy the music.
Cyndy: And it is the donors to the symphony and donors to Dementia Together that make this whole program possible.
I, I believe that. The relationship between the symphony and Dementia Together is the best of nonprofit relationships in Northern Colorado. It shows what a difference, um, we all can make together and that we all are better together.
Jeremy: Yeah, and the, the research findings were, were clear that for the people living with dementia and their care partners is really, really beneficial cognitively and, and, um, Community-wise and, and mood-wise, so, yep.
Um, we absolutely love it. And, and we’re so glad that, that we can be a part of it.
Read the study results and contribute to the program at https://fcsymphony.org/bsharp.