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Art class offers peaceful outlet for older Spanish-speaking adults, particularly those with cognitive issues

Art classes offers peaceful outlet to older Spanish-speaking adults
Art classes offers peaceful outlet to older Spanish-speaking adults 02:46

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Research shows Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to develop memory loss disorders liker Alzheimer's disease than white Americans.

It is a staggering statistic – putting a spotlight on the community and the lack of resources available to impacted Spanish-speaking adults.

But as CBS 2's Andrew Ramos reported Thursday, a program on the city's West Side is helping to bridge that gap – with art.

It was a tough pill to swallow when the Saldivar family got the news that their patriarch, Alvaro, had Alzheimer's disease - a diagnosis that came in 2013.

"It was very hard for me, at the least. I was in shock. I was in denial," said Connie Saldivar, his wife and caretaker. "But I have learned through the years that there is quality of life - we could still give a quality of life.

Connie Saldivar went searching for resources that would help her husband - a former baker - stay engaged and active.

What she found was La Brocha - which means brush - a program based in Little Village and Pilsen that offers art workshops to older Latinos. Some of the participants are living with cognitive disorders and memory loss.

"We didn't think we could do it - but once you're right there, you really connect to the painting," said Connie Saldivar. "Just looking at his face going with a brush - it's extraordinary."

The program was launched back in 2016 by Yadira Montoya, along with Judith Rocha and Susan Aguinaga. All are colleagues who work in the aging, Alzheimer's, and caregiving research space.

Rocha's mother attended an art workshop and felt elated by the experience. That inspired the founders them to create the outlet that wasn't available to older Spanish-speaking adults.

They offer it for free.

"Participants were telling us, 'I've never had a chance to paint,' or, 'The last time I painted, I was a little girl,' or, you know, 'I really love art, and I just forgot about it,'" said Montoya.

Painting is of course a timeless pastime, and it goes on engaging seniors like Lucy Campos. She told us when she goes to the art classes, she feels a sense of peace and happiness.

"It's creating a space outside of a medical setting, and creating a space where you built community - and that's really important - and again, missing," said Montoya said, "and it's missing for both older adults who are cognitively healthy, and especially for those who have a diagnosis."

For the Saldivar family, the art class has provided a gallery of memories.

"There is peace at the time we do this, so we leave with all that," said Connie Saldivar.

La Brocha now gearing up its end-of-the-year event - which includes an art exhibit with food and live music on Saturday, Dec. 16, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St.

More information on the program and the upcoming event is available at the Facebook page for La Brocha.

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