Allophilia: Increasing college students’ “liking” of older adults with dementia through arts-based intergenerational experiences.

Lokon, E., Li, Y. & Kunkel, S. (2018). Increasing college students’ “liking” of older adults with dementia through arts-based service learning experience. Gerontology and Geriatric Education. DOI: 10.1080/02701960.2018.1515740


This study evaluates whether an arts-based intergenerational experience, Opening Minds through Art ( OMA), increases positive attitudes or allophilia (“liking for the other”—in this case, older adults with dementia) in students who joined the OMA program as compared with the control group. Pre- and post-tests of the Allophilia Scale were used to compare 216 students who participated in OMA and 499 students who did not. Hierarchical regression was used to investigate the association between OMA participation and students’ Allophilia scores. After one semester, results showed that OMA participation is significantly positively associated with students’ Affection, Comfort, Kinship, Engagement, and Enthusiasm toward older adults living with dementia. We conclude that increasing students’ allophilia towards older adults living with dementia is necessary and possible through well-designed intergenerational experiences.


Using art in an intergenerational program to improve students' attitudes toward people with dementia.
Lokon, E., Li, Y., & Parajuli, J. (2017). Using art in an intergenerational program to improve students’ attitudes toward people with dementia. Journal of Gerontology and Geriatrics Education. DOI: 10.1080/02701960.2017.1281804
Abstract: This study explored the effects of participating in an intergenerational service learning program called Opening Mind through Arts (OMA) on college students’ attitudes toward people with dementia. In this program, students were paired one-on-one with elders who have dementia to support the elders’ creation of visual art projects.  They met weekly for one semester. The Dementia Attitude Scale was administered at the beginning and end of the semester to measure changes in students’ attitudes. The study included 156 students participating in OMA and assessed if their participation makes a difference in the degree of change in overall attitudes, knowledge, and comfort level toward people with dementia. Results revealed a significant improvement in students’ overall attitudes, comfort level, and attitude toward people with dementia. The results highlight the importance of intergenerational service learning in improving college students’ overall attitudes and increase their confidence and comfort  working with people with dementia.
Activities in dementia care: A comparative assessment of activity types.

Lokon, E., Sauer, P.E., & Li, Y. (2016).   Activities in dementia care: A comparative assessment of activity types. Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice 0(0), 1-19. DOI: 10.1177/1471301216680890

Abstract: This exploratory study compares the impact of five activity types on the well-being of institutionalized people with dementia (PWD): the intergenerational art program Opening Minds through Art (OMA), art and music therapies, creative activities, non-creative activities, and no activities at all. We validated the Scripps Modified Greater Cincinnati Chapter Well-Being Observational Tool (SM-GCCWOT), and used that instrument to systematically observe N=67 PWD as they participated in different activity types. PWD showed the highest well-being scores during OMA compared to all other activities. No significant well-being differences were found between creative activities led by licensed art/music therapist versus regular activity staff. Furthermore, no significant well-being differences were found between creative and non-creative activities that were both led by regular activity staff. Overall, PWD benefit from participating in activities, regardless of the type (creative or non-creative), or who conducts them (licensed therapists or activity staff). However, in order for PWD to reach significantly high levels of overall well-being, we recommend that activities are specifically designed for PWD and incorporate a 1:1 ratio between PWD and well-trained volunteers/staff members.

"It makes me feel like myself": Person-centered versus traditional visual arts activities for people with dementia.

Sauer, P. E., Fopma-Loy, J., Kinney, J. M., & Lokon, E. (2016). “It makes me feel like myself”: Person-centered versus traditional visual arts activities for people with dementia. Dementia, 15(5), pp. 895-912. doi: 10.1177/1471301214543958

Abstract: During a 15-month period between February 2010 and April 2011, video data on (n=38) people with dementia were collected during a person-centered and intergenerational arts activity program called Opening Minds through Art (OMA) at three different long-term care facilities in Ohio. A subsample of the OMA participants (n=10) were also video recorded during traditional visual arts activities (e.g. coloring books, scrapbooking). A modified version of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter Well-Being Observation Tool was used to code the intensity and frequency of observed domains of well-being (i.e. social interest, engagement, and pleasure) and ill-being (i.e. disengagement, negative affect, sadness, and confusion). Descriptive results indicate a high percentage of moderate or high intensities of well-being during OMA sessions with little to no ill-being. Paired-sample t-tests comparing OMA vs. traditional visual arts activities showed significantly higher intensity scores for OMA in the domain of engagement and pleasure, as well as significantly lower intensity scores for disengagement. The findings of this exploratory study contribute to the overall discussion about the impact of person-centered, creative-expressive arts activities on people with dementia.

Building Bridges across Age and Cognitive Barriers through Art: College Students' Reflections on an Intergenerational Program with Elders who Have Dementia.

Lokon, E., Kinney, J. M., & Kunkel, S. (2012). Building Bridges across Age and Cognitive Barriers through Art: College Students’ Reflections on an Intergenerational Program with Elders who Have Dementia. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 10(4), pp. 337-354.

Abstract: The positive impact of intergenerational service learning experience on college students’ academic and personal development is well documented. However, it is not clear whether students engaged in such programs with elders who have dementia gain similar benefits. Qualitative analysis of 300 journals written by 59 students participating in the Opening Minds Through Art intergenerational art program for people with dementia revealed that facilitating the creative expressions of elders with dementia resulted in many positive gains for college students. The experience enhanced their academic learning, and they felt rewarded for making a difference in the lives of others. Their attitudes toward the elders became more positive, and they were able to build genuine and reciprocal relationships with the elders. In the students’ eyes, the elders were artists, teachers, and friends. Further research is needed to analyze the impact of such an intergenerational art program from the perspective of the elders.

The impact of Gerontology Course and a Service Learning Program on College Student's Attitudes toward People with Dementia.

Yamashita, T., Kinney, J.M., Lokon, E. (2011). The impact of a Gerontology Course and a Service Learning Program on College Student’s Attitudes toward People with Dementia. Journal of Applied Gerontology. doi: 10.1177/0733464811405198.

Abstract: We examined the effects of a gerontology course and an intergenerational service-learning project for people with dementia (PWD) on three dimensions of students’ attitudes including attitudes toward older people, community service for older people, and working with PWD. Data consisted of a combination of pretest/posttest survey and review of journals that students maintained during the service-learning project. Results indicated that students who completed the gerontology course, and those who completed both the course and the service-learning project, reported significantly more positive attitudes toward older adults, whereas students in the course only had significantly less positive attitudes about working with PWD, and those in the other courses (sociology) showed no change in their attitudes. Students’ journals are replete with reports of the satisfaction they derived from their experiences. The findings highlight opportunities and challenges that should be considered in future intergenerational service-learning programs and gerontological education.

Opening Minds through Art: A Preliminary Study Evaluating the Effects of a Creative-Expression Program on Persons Living with Dementia and Their Primary Care Partners

Levenberg, K., George, D. R., and Lokon, E. (2021). Opening Minds through Art: A Preliminary Study Evaluating the Effects of a Creative-Expression Program on Persons Living with Dementia and Their Primary Care Partners. Dementia: The international journal of social research and practice. DOI:10.1177/1471301221997290 

Abstract: For people living with dementia and their care partners, a decline in the ability to effectively communicate can cause significant distress. However, in recent decades, the arts have emerged as an effective care modality in fostering communication and expression for those with declining verbal skills and memory loss. Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is a national initiative that empowers people living with dementia by facilitating creative expression and social engagement through art-making in partnership with trained college student volunteers. Research has demonstrated that participation in the program benefits quality of life for those living with dementia, and also improves student attitudes towards dementia. To date, however, no research has involved primary care partners. We implemented an OMA program at three residential care homes in State College, Pennsylvania, with residents co-creating artwork alongside primary care partners (i.e., a family member or primary medical personnel) over the course of four art-making sessions. We evaluated the effects of participation on quality of life and care partner burnout through pre-post use of “emotional thermometers” (measuring levels of distress, anxiety, depression, anger, and perceived quality of life), the NIH emotional support scale, and the NIH caregiver assessment (care partner burnout). For people living with dementia, participation significantly increased perceived quality of life while decreasing distress, anxiety, depression, and anger (p<0.01; n=12) after each class; however, the intervention did not significantly impact perceived emotional support. For care partners, participation significantly lowered post-intervention measures of burnout and self-rated stress (p<0.01; n=9). This preliminary study suggests that a structured art-based activity appears to positively impact acute mood for patients, and, importantly, decrease care partner burnout. Future research can bring more robust methods to bear in determining how to use OMA and other arts interventions to optimize social support for people living with dementia and their care partners.

Building Bridges in the Community through OMA, an Intergenerational Abstract Art Program for People Living with Dementia

Danker, S., Lokon, E. Pax, C. (2021). Building Bridges in the Community through OMA, an Intergenerational Abstract Art Program for People Living with Dementia. In A. Sinner, C. Lin, & R. L. Irwin (Eds.). Transversalities: International Perspectives on Community Art Education. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books.

Abstract: Opening Minds through Art (OMA) promotes reciprocal relationships between university students and elders living with dementia through art, building bridges across age and cognitive barriers (Lokon et al., 2012). This work is centered on intergenerational relationship building over time, using abstract art as a catalyst. Contemporary art education focused on social justice is about identifying issues in the community and problem-solving together using art. It can provide a way to emphasize experiences of a marginalized group of people by working directly with them, listening to their stories and constructing new narratives together. Creating art becomes a way to communicate ideas and represent one’s voice; it becomes a form of empowerment and can be transformative for the creator, facilitator and the viewer. The multidisciplinary aspect of OMA also connects with contemporary art education. Collaboration with partners when designing and implementing art experiences can generate meaning and connection making between content areas. Multidisciplinary curriculum values the expertise of partners within a community, in this case gerontologists, healthcare professionals, university educators and artists (among others). Another aspect of contemporary art education is therapeutic artmaking or art as therapy. This is different from art therapy as it is for the joy of making and processing experience, rather than intended as a therapy treatment. Additionally, OMA is not typically facilitated by licensed art therapists. Art can be a process to relieve stress, to make aesthetic choices and enjoy being present with others while creating. In OMA, the university students facilitate art experiences with elders with dementia, honoring their choices, focusing on quality time spent together, rather than only valuing the product. The art created becomes a reason to celebrate through local community art events, bringing together the artists and their families, care communities and university student partners.

An arts program to improve medical student attitudes toward persons with dementia

George, D., Lokon, E., Li, Y., & Dellasega, C. (2021). “Opening Minds through Art”: Participation in a Nursing Home-Based Expressive Arts Program to Improve Medical Students’ Attitudes Towards Persons Living with Dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Purpose: While medical student attitudes towards older adults have been shown to decline during training, educators have found value in facilitating arts-based activities that foster meaningful engagement with PLWD in nursing home settings. This study evaluated whether first- and second-year students who partnered with nursing home residents living with dementia through an expressive arts program (Opening Minds through Art, OMA), could develop more positive attitudes toward older adults.

Method: The authors administered the Dementia Attitudes Scale (DAS), Allophilia Scale, and the UCLA Geriatric Attitudes Scale (UCLA-GAS) to 33 students who participated in OMA and 19 students in a control group in order to evaluate mean change in their self-reported attitudes towards persons with dementia. The authors used paired t-tests or Wilcoxon Signed-rank tests to analyze comparative pre- and post-program scores on the individual items of the DAS, Allophilia Scale, and UCLA-GAS, on sub-domains, and on the overall scale. They used Cronbach’s alpha to evaluate the internal consistency and reliability.

Results: OMA students’ scores showed significantly larger pre-post attitudinal improvement than did control group students on DAS Comfort factor score, DAS Overall score, and all Allophilia factor (i.e., Affection, Comfort & Kinship, and Engagement & Enthusiasm) and Overall scores. DAS and Allophilia factors and overall scales showed high internal consistency reliabilities using both pre- and post-data, with Cronbach’s α values ranging from 0.80 to 0.95. The GAS scale, on the other hand, showed relatively lower reliabilities using pre-data (Cronbach’s α=0.59) and moderate reliability using post-data (Cronbach’s α=0.75).

Conclusions: The authors’ findings provide evidence that participation in an expressive arts program at a nursing home improves medical students’ attitudes towards persons with dementia.