​​​​​The Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy
Participants, families, staff, volunteers and artists celebrate a milestone for the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy. (Photo: Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy)​

At the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy, no two activities are the same.

The Wellness Academy, developed by UHN and York University, provides arts-based programming for individuals experiencing memory loss and living with mild to moderate dementia.

Recently, the Academy celebrated its second anniversary.

A reason to celebrate

To mark the special occasion, family and friends were invited to an evening event at the Academy, where participants were able to show off some of their artistic works.

"The evening was a great opportunity for participants, staff and families to come together to celebrate everything that the Bitove Academy has to offer,"​ says Velta Vikmanis, Artistic and Program Manager. "It provided an opportunity for the various program facilitators to highlight what they bring, not only to our space, but to the greater community."​

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Beginning with only four participants in 2013, the Academy now hosts more than 20 participants several days a week.

"Our arts-based curriculum incorporates all the arts, including: fine art, music, movement, dance, and theatre arts. We view all staff, volunteers, participants, family members, students and artists at the Academy as teachers and learners," says Dr. Christine Jonas-Simpson, Director of the Academy and Associate Professor at York University.  

"Participants are offered opportunities for personal growth and discovery in an engaging, and self-expressive way."

Connecting through art

A typical day at Bitove is filled with a choice of activities which inspire and connect the participants with the staff, artists, volunteers, and with one another. Each activity is different, allowing participants to learn as much as possible.

Individual self-expression includes conversation over coffee and tea, and open periods for participants to work on their own artwork.

Exercising the body and mind is another focus. Activities of this nature include bocce, yoga, meditation, chair exercise, dance lessons, current affairs discussions, and free-for-all dance parties when the mood feels "just right."

One participant's partner has noticed the positive impact of the Academy.

"He is ecstatic when he leaves in the morning for Bitove. It really has been amazing for him," the partner says.

There are also opportunities for group art analysis, musical appreciation and song writing. A professional artist or movement specialist teaches each of these activities.

'It is so rewarding'

"I spend Fridays at Bitove, and it has very quickly become my favourite day of the week," says Matthew Lumsden, Summer Intern for Legal Affairs, Collaborative Academic Practice, and the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy.

"It is so rewarding to witness the influence that these activities have not only on the participants, but also the whole Academy team," Lumsden explains. "The participants have so much knowledge, experience, and zest for life. Bitove provides the supportive platform to share and explore their talents."

To volunteer at the Bitove Academy, please apply here and note Dotsa Bitove Academy in your application.

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