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Rekindling a love of art in people with dementia

Saturday 9 October 2021

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At Bayside Gallery a wonderful program is giving a unique opportunity for people living with dementia.

It allows them to connect, interpret and express experiences through art works during a discussion-based tour of an exhibition.

The free Connections: Art +Dementia program, based on the National Gallery of Australia’s Art and Dementia program, has been operating at Bayside Gallery since a pilot program was established in 2012.

Participation in the program has doubled annually since 2012 and 8 aged care facilities across Bayside are now involved. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the program has evolved and is now also delivered online.

Connections: Art +Dementia provides the opportunity for people living with dementia to:

  • reconnect with their community
  • foster personal growth in an environment where their intellect is respected and valued
  • improve quality of life through a re-established sense of self by connecting with memories, insights, and experiences.
  • develop new ways of communicating through mutual enjoyment and companionship
  • explore and exchange ideas about art and artists.

Since the program went online in 2020, gallery staff and volunteers have delivered it to 1118 aged care residents.

In 2020/21, despite the regular gallery closures due to lockdowns, 163 people were able to take part in in-person sessions which are specifically aimed at residents who have dementia. 

Council’s Education and Community Engagement Officer Helen Berwick is hoping to expand the online program with the help of gallery volunteers in 2022.

BlueCross Karinya Grove residents have been participating in the program for a few years.

Hanna Ben-David, Leisure and Lifestyle Coordinator at Blue Cross Karinya Grove says the virtual art sessions are very important for residents, many of whom are art lovers and used to go to galleries and museums.

“These sessions give them a valid connection to the art and gallery world,” Hanna said.

“Art is such a strong and powerful tool, which enables our residents to express their thoughts and emotions in a safe environment.

“They know Helen by now, and every time they see her friendly and smiling face, they reciprocate and start immediately to smile as well, and wave their hands to her.”  

Nearly half a million Australians are living with dementia, and almost 1.6 million people are involved in their care.
During Dementia Action Week 2021, which runs until September 26, the message is “A little support makes a big difference”.

Dementia Action Week runs during World Alzheimer’s Month, with September 2021 marking the 10th year of this global awareness-raising campaign.
 

For more information on the Connections: Art +Dementia program call Helen Berwick, Education and Community Engagement Officer on 9599 4729 or email hberwick@bayside.vic.gov.au