Dementia is one of the most debilitating health conditions faced by Singapore’s rapidly ageing population. Based on current local estimates, one in 10 seniors aged 60 and above – or around 86,000 people – may have dementia, and this number could rise to 130,000 or more by 2030, according to experts. Studies have shown that arts engagement, a non-pharmacological approach, has the potential to enhance the quality of life for persons living with dementia and their caregivers.
Building on these studies, National Gallery Singapore and Dementia Singapore embarked on a two-year pilot study to develop Art with You – a dementia-specific, art-based engagement programme. This museum-based wellness programme combines person-centred care with meaningful arts engagement to foster positive and meaningful interactions for persons with dementia and their caregivers. It also aims to encourage an inclusive and dementia-friendly environment in the museum where persons living with dementia are valued, respected and empowered.
“The Gallery has always championed the benefits of art for social, emotional and mental well-being. As a public institution, we are in a unique position to connect with communities and care for their overall well-being by creating new opportunities for all to positively experience art. We look forward to completing trainings for our Front-of House staff and become the next arts venue to be listed as a Dementia Go-To Point. By creating a more inclusive social space, we hope that persons living with dementia and their caregivers will be encouraged to visit the Gallery and enjoy the experiences and connections that our art can bring,” says Ms Suenne Megan Tan, Senior Director, Museum Planning & Audience Engagement at National Gallery Singapore.
Jason Foo, CEO of Dementia Singapore says, “Through Art with You, we want to provide new and effective ways of caring for persons with dementia, and empower the community through these enriching experiences. By facilitating more opportunities for positive interactions, we hope that this programme will encourage more persons with dementia to step out of their homes, experience some art activities, and mingle with the trained staff and volunteers at the Gallery. Such interactions not only improve the quality of life of persons with dementia and their families, but also bring us forward towards fostering a Dementia-Friendly Singapore.”
Visitors may experience Art with You in various formats. Guided group tour experiences are available for registration for community groups. Trained Gallery volunteers will bring persons with dementia and their caregivers to view artworks specially selected based on relatable themes, and encourage cognitive stimulation by prompting participants to share observations, interpretations and personal memories connected to the artworks. Simple art-making activities inspired by the artworks are also built into the programme for participants to exercise fine motor skills and creativity. These group sessions present opportunities for persons with dementia, their caregivers and other members of society to interact and engage with each other.
Besides the guided group sessions, the pilot study also led to the creation of the Art with You Caregivers Guide, to facilitate independent visits to the Gallery. Available at the Gallery’s Visitor Services counters, the Caregivers Guide contains facilitation tips, prompting questions for art appreciation and instructions for art-making activities that are similar to the guided group session. The resource booklet also includes useful information about features in the Gallery such as accessible restrooms and wheelchair loans – all of which are helpful information for caregivers.
Over two years, National Gallery Singapore and Dementia Singapore conducted a pilot study to design, evaluate and trial the Art with You programme with participants living with dementia and their caregivers. Persons with dementia with ages ranging from 50 to over 90 and their caregivers participated in facilitated conversations around artworks from the Gallery’s collection, as well as art-making workshops. These interactions were observed by researchers, and feedback from the participants were taken into consideration to shape and refine programme components.
Following the pilot study, caregivers shared positive feedback about the activities, sharing that their loved ones were significantly happier and more responsive throughout the programme. Caregivers also concurred that the programme provided valuable opportunities for social engagement and interactions that are often not present at home, for both themselves and their loved ones living with dementia. The results from the study are published as a public resource on the Gallery’s website, for the benefit of industry peer groups who are looking to design dementia-specific programmes.
To experience Art with You, visitors may pick up the Caregivers Guide at National Gallery Singapore’s Visitor Services counters from 14th October 2022. Facilitated group sessions for community groups are available and can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information available here