Siya Goel, 16, of West Lafayette, Indiana, a member of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and a junior at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, created an art studio and conducted an art workshop at a local assisted-living facility to benefit residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and then built a website to share the therapeutic effects of art with 40 other senior facilities throughout Indiana and Illinois. Since she was 4 years old, Siya has watched her grandmother struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. While researching the disease, she learned that “art can improve the social, emotional and cognitive state of patients,” she said. At the same time, Siya realized that many facilities for people with dementia don’t have the resources or expertise to offer substantial opportunities for artistic expression.
After knocking on the doors of several retirement homes, Siya found one that would let her set up a small, portable art studio for its residents. She raised some money and bought paint, canvases, brushes and other materials for her studio, and then conducted art workshops for about 20 seniors. She was struck by “the joy on their faces as they painted,” said Siya. “Many residents cried from happiness as they remembered memories from their younger selves.” To sustain and amplify the impact of her project, Siya created instructional manuals and trained employees to continue painting with their dementia patients. Then she developed an online art studio with paintings and manuals for other organizations to access, so that they, too, could use art to improve quality of life of their residents.