OT student uses art, music to interact with adult day program participants

CSU student David Colangelo spent this summer working for Elderhaus Adult Day Programs as a part of his fieldwork toward his degree in occupational therapy, and it was a creative affair.

Established more than 30 years ago, Elderhaus is Colorado’s first nonprofit adult day program and offers services to adults over 18 with disabilities at all income levels.

OT-DColangeloArtElderhaus3Recreational activities are offered by Elderhaus with the intention of enhancing sense of self and feeling of belonging among participants. Colangelo had the opportunity to work with participants on everything from fishing to concerts. “In the process,” said Colangelo, “I discovered the powerful impact music can have on those living with dementia.”

‘Music with Dave’

When summer ended, Colangelo became the leader of his own monthly music group appropriately named “Music with Dave.” On the back patio of Elderhaus, Colangelo continued to strengthen his bonds with participants and staff through song and dance in the fresh Colorado air.

“Elderhaus was great about letting me try out my ideas,” said Colangelo, “and I saw a need for interaction.” He conducted his Music with Dave groups with the intent to get every person involved in some way, whether it was singing along, dancing to the music or playing an instrument.

He saw that one of the biggest benefits from his music group was the contagious happiness that music brought. “Our job as fieldwork students is to let the participant be the best they can be, at whatever level that may be,” said Colangelo.

Not only did participants at Elderhaus love Music with Dave, but it also relieved some of the pressure from Elderhaus staff as they could join in and have some fun as well.

Creating art

Music with Dave is only one of the ways Colangelo contributes to the arts at Elderhaus. He was asked if he would like to create an art piece for the new Elderhaus facility, and he immediately jumped at the opportunity. Joanne Vande Walle, director of Elderhaus, graciously offered Colangelo an old, broken piano as inspiration.

“I loved the idea of using an actual instrument as the medium for the piece,” said Colangelo, “I played around with a few designs and settled on a Rocky Mountain theme, an easily recognizable image that participants and visitors at Elderhaus could enjoy.”

Colangelo’s art piece for Elderhaus

Here is Colangelo’s own interpretation of his artwork:

“The keys themselves fit together in an asymmetrical, layered fashion, much like the blend of foothills and snowcapped peaks visible from the Front Range. They also resemble the shape of a sound wave, giving the viewer multiple ways to interpret and enjoy the piece. I added depth and color to the piece by implementing the Rocky Mountain landscape and iconic “C” from the Colorado flag to the background, subtly visible through the vertical gaps between the keys. The keys themselves blend from one color to another, from light to dark. Again, the piece is easily interpreted in various ways. The change in color hints at changing seasons, melodies and emotions. Ultimately, I wanted to express my gratitude for being so welcomed and appreciated by the participants and staff of Elderhaus, as well as keep the spirit from my little music group going! I encourage people to visit Elderhaus to see what a wonderful impact it is making in the community, and enjoy my installation and the many other artworks in the facility.”

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.