Bringing Art to Life: Social and Activity Engagement through Art in Persons Living with Dementia

Clin Gerontol. 2022 Mar-Apr;45(2):327-337. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2021.1936737. Epub 2021 Jun 8.


Objectives: The Bringing Art to Life (BATL) program was created as an art therapy intervention to increase social engagement, intergenerational engagement, and creative expression among persons living with dementia (PWD) in an adult day service. This is an evaluation of BATL program efficacy.

Methods: A modified behavioral observation tool was used to quantify meaningful engagements as recorded in ethnographic field notes and test the hypotheses that: 1) engagements increase across art therapy sessions, and 2) engagements were more social than activity or art related.

Results: The increase in engagement across session was not significant. However, social engagements (M = 9.61, SD 4.6) were more prevalent than art engagements (M = 5.23, SD = 3.1) in each session (t(99) = 9.52,). A thematic analysis of social interactions recorded in the ethnographic field notes revealed themes related to reminiscence.

Conclusions: The quantitative and qualitative data supported the BATL program as effective in engaging participants in social interaction and art activities. Specifically, quantitative data showed participants were engaged in conversations around reminiscence and discussion of creative expression with students.

Clinical implications: Intergenerational social interaction between PWD and college students is a critical and meaningful part of the BATL program, and the intervention created a safe space with focused activity through engagement with art, and this facilitated PWD in self-expression, including humor, advice, and legacy.

Keywords: Art therapy; dementia; ethnographic; intergenerational intervention; reminiscence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art Therapy*
  • Dementia* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Memory