A famous quote says “Art is the daughter of freedom”. Art thrives when the society supports freedom of expression. We use art to express our ideas, thoughts, and values. Art is liberating, therapeutic, and healing. Many persons with dementia, who may or may not have a prior education in art, plan to pursue art. Research indicates that pursuing art has positive physical and mental effects on persons living with dementia.
For a person with dementia, the pursuit of art presents some challenges which are primarily related to arts and recreation centers. A report published in 2015 indicated that persons with dementia experience difficulties in getting around or to the arts center. People living with dementia might respond to art in an unexpected way such as handling an object. Furthermore, persons with dementia worry about the reactions of staff to their symptoms. These challenges discourage persons with dementia from pursuing art.
Most art centers realize the need to become more inclusive and make the venue easily accessible for individuals with dementia. Art centers generally adopt a two pronged action plan –
a) increased accessibility of the venue.
b) community engagement for persons with dementia and their care-givers.
The first step towards becoming inclusive is to ask persons with dementia and their caregivers about activities needed. For example, What would help you to interact with the services we offer? E.g., allowing to handle objects or allowing more time to read information. Is there a preferred time for your visit? E.g., quieter hours such as afternoons. Next, in order to stay connected with persons with dementia asking about method of contact (e.g., postcard or flyers instead of emails or text) is crucial. These simple actions lead to an increased participation of persons with dementia.
In order to promote accessibility of the venue, art centers collaborate with local authorities and agencies such as local bus service, voluntary organizations. A ‘same time, same place’ format works better for persons with dementia. For instance, a bus takes persons with dementia on every Thursday afternoon to the local arts center. Arts centers also focus on providing clear signage and maps for persons with dementia to enjoy the venue. The ease of access results in an increase the number of visitors with dementia.
Some art and recreation centers develop specific programs for persons with dementia. For example, National Museum Liverpool, UK has successfully run a program titled “House of Memories”. The first step of the program is to train persons with dementia to interact with a free loan object and digital memory app. Later, persons with dementia are loaned objects from a “Suitcase of memories” to record their reminiscence sessions on the app. Thousands of participants have recorded their memories and house of memories continues to grow.
Furthermore, apart from specialized programs, art centers can take measures to become dementia friendly. Art center staff can be made aware of difficulties faced by person with dementia and trained to become dementia friendly. For instance, giving directions in simple words such as ‘the bathrooms are next to the elevators’ is helpful. Also, in some arts centers dementia friendly staff wears purple pins to indicate that they have received dementia friendly training.
To summarize, the challenges faced by persons with dementia in enjoying an arts center can be overcome by our collective efforts. Arts centers, caregivers, transport authorities, and other businesses need to actively participate in creating dementia friendly venues. At AlzCare Labs, we are developing products such as PreSafe that will enable persons with dementia and their care givers to enjoys venues such as arts centers without fears or worries.
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“Art is the daughter of freedom” – Friedrich Schiller