How do you give people living with dementia and their loved ones an enjoyable afternoon out?
Art can surprise and connect people. It can also enrich their lives. Art should therefore be accessible to all, regardless of age, background, faith and/or disability, in whatever form. This is why in 2013 the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven developed the Unforgettable programme for those living with dementia and their loved ones.
When I asked Wim how he found the tour, his answer was: “Fantastic, at least I was able to say something again!” Wim felt he had been heard, seen and taken seriously: he went home feeling good. Lovely isn’t it? It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
Unforgettable is inspired by the Meet Me at MoMA programme run by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. More and more people are affected directly or indirectly by dementia, a syndrome for which there is still no cure. Moreover, there are few specific things on offer for those living with dementia and their loved ones in the cultural and leisure sector. With the Unforgettable programme, museums can fulfil this need. During an Unforgettable guided tour, the emphasis is on what everyone can do: experiencing an inspiring, enjoyable museum visit together.
Looking at art and discussing it in a safe environment
By looking at art, people living with dementia can exchange ideas with their loved ones. Social contact is stimulated because the tour taps into long-term memory and personal experiences. Research has shown that this has a positive impact on health. Participants feel happier at the end of an Unforgettable tour and it gives them the feeling of mattering again. This increases their self-confidence and sense of dignity. Moreover, with Unforgettable, the museum provides a safe and inspiring environment in which people can meet others going through similar experiences.
During Unforgettable guided tours and workshops, participants get to look at a small number of objects in the museum, and discuss them with one another. Knowledge about the objects being exhibited is not a requirement; at Unforgettable, the emphasis is on enjoying art and personal experiences. By sharing stories, memories, associations and ideas, the participants bring the museum objects to life. A specially trained tour guide helps keep them on track with stimulating questions and creative assignments.
If you would like to find out more about the Unforgettable programme, please visit our website or check out the Onvergetelijk Museum website.