WHILE some of their memories may have faded with time, Newcastle East Public School students helped people living with dementia make new ones in vivid colour.
Alice Ropata is an art therapist and facilitates the Memory Room program for Newcastle Libraries, helping people living with dementia, their families and carers to foster conversation and connection.
And for Grandparents Day on Wednesday, little people and participants of a finer vintage forged new friendships while sharing stories and a laugh or two in the classroom.
"Inter-generational friendship is so important, it enriches us and creates a connection that gives us energy and zest for life," Ms Ropata said.
"My participants enjoyed listening to the stories shared by children in Kindergarten, but it also gave them the beautiful opportunity to share their memories and what's important in their lives."
The group created an 'inter-generational friendship tree' artwork - working together to trace each others hands and splash paint around the canvas.
City of Newcastle councillor Margaret Wood's own mother was diagnosed with dementia, and she said she wishes programs like the Memory Room were around then.
"People benefit not just because they're coming along and receiving prompts for conversation, but it's an opportunity for carers to come with a loved one and also have that social interaction with members of the group with a shared experience," she said.
"One of the problems with dementia is that you lose your short-term memory and conversation becomes more difficult because of that.
"What the Memory Room does is use objects from people's homes and past, photographs or ornaments or toys and that becomes the focus for a conversation."
Ms Ropata said being in the classroom sparked memories for her participants, who loved sharing stories with the students.
"For people living with dementia, hopefully what they got out of it is if they don't remember the ins and outs of the program in the hours, weeks or days to come, they might see this artwork again in the future and remember that it was a good day," she said.
"It was great to see how reciprocally rewarding it is, everyone got a lot of out it today - they formed beautiful connections and the children were interested in the stories from the older generation as much as they loved hearing from the kids."
The Memory Room program has been running at Newcastle Libraries since 2020 and holds fortnightly sessions.
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