Art & Dementia program

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Pilot Program and evaluation

In 2007 a six-week Art and Alzheimer's pilot program was conducted at the National Gallery of Australia. Four groups of people with dementia from both community and residential care visited the Gallery for a series of tours. Three to four works of art in the Australian collection were selected each week for discussion.

National Gallery educators undertook extensive training to facilitate the tours. The training included specialised information on the effects of dementia, communication techniques and understanding of the needs of people living with dementia visiting the Gallery.

The pilot program was evaluated by clinical psychologist Dr Mike Bird and colleagues at the Aged Care Evaluation Unit of the Greater Southern Area Health Service, with the findings published in Aging and Mental Health, September, 13 (5): 744-52, 2009. The evaluation found that outcomes for all parties were broader than expected.

Focus groups recorded 'enjoyment and feeling intelligent' as key outcomes of the tours. Educators discovered people living with dementia are able to participate actively in the Gallery tour when given the opportunity. The evaluation provided the foundation on which the aims of the program have been built.

An Art Gallery Access Programme for people with dementia: 'You do it for the moment' (PDF 119 kb)

The authors concluded that "A critical issue highlighted by this study is the ability of psychosocial programmes to maximise the residual capacities of people with dementia. That is, the excess disability observed external to the programme was not an issue within the group context. This, in turn, reinforces the importance of providing interventions that promote 'normal' higher level activities for people with dementia". MacPherson, Bird, Anderson, Davis and Blair, Aging and Mental Health, September, 2009 Vol. 13 No.5 p.751

Adriane Boag
Program coordinator
Learning and Access
02 6240 6632

Supported by

The National Gallery of Australia's Art and Dementia program is supported by Goodwin Aged Care.