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Art Programs Enhance Bennington Veterans' Quality Of Life

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Vermont Veterans Home
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A veteran adjusts his canvas during art class at Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington.

At the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, every day is Veterans Day. The residence is home to many aging vets, some living with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Caregivers there have introduced art classes, music enrichment and yoga exercises as ways to enhance the veterans' quality of life.

Melissa Jackson, CEO of Vermont Veterans Home, talks about the specific unit, called Freedom Village, which is home to aging veterans and the arts programs there.

Jackson says one of the veterans who has participated in the program describes it best. "He says, 'Through the art program, my hands have been able to describe what my mind has forgotten.'"

"You'll see veterans who are fairly quiet throughout the course of the day, but when they're sitting and drawing, the memories just come back." - Melissa Jackson, Vermont Veterans Home CEO

The program takes place weekly, Jackson says, and veterans meet with members of the Vermont Arts Exchange program.

"It's a very social time. They sit and they draw. There's no expectation … It allows them to reminisce about good times. Some conversations about their wartime experience," Jackson says.

Ultimately, it helps veterans express themselves.

"You'll see veterans who are fairly quiet throughout the course of the day, but when they're sitting and drawing, the memories just come back," Jackson says.

Every year all the artwork is compiled for an art show, which Jackson says gives the vets a sense of belonging to a community, "because you lose your identity a lot of times when you come to a nursing facility."

There's also a yoga program dedicated to "honoring the spirit within," Jackson says.

"This is a special room in the facility, where veterans come in, are put in really comfortable lounge chairs, and wrapped in warm blankets, and their care is provided in that environment. With Alzheimer's disease, veterans often misunderstand why you're coming towards their face with a razor or a toothbrush, so we use that, along with Reiki and some yoga, to help them relax and provide care."

The script written on the emblem for Vermont Veteran's Home reads, "Fulfilling the promise."

What's the promise?

"That's the promise that came from President Lincoln's second inaugural address: 'To care for he who has borne the battle of war, their orphan and their widow.' So we take that to heart at the Veterans Home. That's what we do every day."

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