National Gallery launches art-based program for families living with dementia

Photo: National Gallery Singapore
Photo: National Gallery Singapore

Art might just be the answer to improving the lives of those with dementia and their caregivers.

Art with You, a dementia-specific, art-based engagement program by National Gallery Singapore and Dementia Singapore aims to give those affected by the neurological syndrome new opportunities to improve their quality of life.

“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,” CEO of Dementia Singapore Jason Foo said in a news release. 

“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.”

According to organizers, one in 10 seniors aged 60 and above, or around 86,000 Singaporeans, may have dementia. With Singapore’s aging population, that number could rise to 130,000 or more by 2030.

While there are currently no cures for the illness, studies point to arts as having the potential in enhancing the quality of life for those with dementia and their caregivers.

The Art with You program is the result of a two-year pilot study on the frightening incurable condition. The museum and Dementia Singapore gathered people with dementia over 50 years old and their caregivers to participate in conversations around the gallery’s artworks and workshops. Their interactions and feedback were then observed and collected by researchers to enhance the programs.

The full report of the study can be found on their website.

Photo: National Gallery Singapore

Guests can view the works by themselves or in guided groups. There are gallery guides who will bring people with dementia and caregivers to view the works and generate discussions and interactions to encourage cognitive stimulation. There will also be simple arts and crafts activities to exercise fine motor skills and creativity.

Especially for caregivers, the program includes independent visits with a resource booklet containing facilitation tips and prompt questions for the art and activities, as well as information on accessible restrooms and wheelchair loans.

The program is an extension of the gallery’s wellness offerings including the Calm Room, an ambient soundscape space for those who might feel overwhelmed; Slow Art programs that feature slow visual appreciation of artworks; and the inaugural Gallery Wellness Festival with a bunch of wellness programs.

Visitors with dementia accompanied by a caregiver, including Dementia Singapore’s CARA members, are entitled to free All Access Admission and paid Back-of-House tours at the gallery. 

The Calm Room. Photo: National Gallery Singapore

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