Since 2013, Dementia Singapore (formerly known as Alzheimer’s Disease Association) has recognised the benefits of arts programmes for persons with dementia in lifting mood and creating a sense of purpose and achievement when it first piloted an arts programme at its New Horizon Centre at Bukit Batok.
Research has shown that engaging persons with dementia in arts activities yields positive outcomes. Engagement in arts-related activities provides cognitive stimulation, enhances mood, facilitates social interactions, and creates a shared positive experiences for persons with dementia and caregivers. Dementia Singapore has collaborated with strategic partners on arts-related programmes as a non-pharmacological approach to manage the effects of dementia and to enhance the quality of life of families impacted by dementia.
Dementia Singapore embarked on the Arts and Dementia project in 2013 with support from the National Arts Council, to develop a series of participatory arts programmes for persons with dementia attending Dementia Singapore’s New Horizon Centres and Family of Wisdom Centres. These programmes were developed in collaboration with cultural heritage centres, artists and art facilitators.
A Walk through Kampong Gelam
This programme drew on visual and material artefacts at the Malay Heritage Centre, to stimulate discussions about the traditions and distinctive arts of the Malay community. The participants engaged in creative art-making sessions at the heritage centre, such as weaving a ‘ting-kat’ (local tiffin container) using rolled paper sticks.
Take a Photo with Me @ the Peranakan Museum
The programme brought persons with dementia to The Peranakan Museum (TPM) to explore the cultural traditions and distinctive visual arts of the Peranakan community. While immersing themselves in Peranakan culture, the persons with dementia exercise self-expression and creativity through photo-taking.
There was also a special photoshoot of Persons with dementia in traditional Peranakan outfits, and the photographs were later given to them as a keepsake.
The photographs taken by persons with dementia were showcased at the TPM’s Amek Gambar exhibition during World Alzheimer’s Month in 2018. When the persons with dementia saw their portraits in Peranakan outfits, the photos sparked conversations about their personal stories, thoughts and feelings.
Art With You at National Gallery Singapore
‘Art with You’ is an arts engagement programme developed by National Gallery Singapore in partnership with Dementia Singapore, which aims to foster positive and meaningful engagement that supports the wellbeing of caregivers and persons with dementia. Launched on 14 October 2022, the programme combines person-centred care with arts engagement to create an inclusive environment where persons with dementia are valued, respected and empowered. ‘Art with You’ can be enjoyed as a guided group visit led by the Gallery’s friendly docents or a self-guided visit using the Caregiver’s Guide and Art Kit.
Sing Out Loud!
Sing Out Loud! is a community engagement programme developed by the Esplanade in partnership with Dementia Singapore in 2016. The programme provides persons with dementia opportunities to deepen their engagement with music through the reminiscence of songs and singing.
During the programme, persons with dementia found ways to engage their visual, auditory, and tactile senses while being coached to sing and enjoy dance performances.
The Esplanade also conducts workshops to enable Social Service Professionals to conduct singing sessions for people with dementia.
In 2014, Dementia Singapore implemented the Memories Café concept, which was originated from Dr Bere Miesen’s “Alzheimer’s Café” in 1997 in the Netherlands. The popularity of the programme has demonstrated that performing arts are valuable opportunities for persons with dementia to express themselves when words fall away.
The 2-hour programme includes performing arts activities such as drumming, music performances, sing-a-long, drama, dance and movement, and is held weekly at cafes or restaurants where persons with dementia and their care partners are brought together in a community setting for a social gathering.
During the pandemic, Memories Café sessions continued to engage and stay connected with persons with dementia and caregivers over virtual sessions.
JADe – Journey with the Arts and Dementia
Dementia Singapore remains committed to finding ways to involve and inform the community on the use of the arts and reminiscence engagement to benefit more persons with dementia and their families.
With the support of Chua Foundation, Dementia Singapore launched a training programme in 2019 to train individuals to lead various reminiscence arts activities for persons with cognitive impairment and dementia.
A digital version of the JADe Toolkit was developed, to enable anyone to be able to engage persons with dementia in reminiscence using photos of objects categorised according to different themes, including childhood games, cooking, heritage household items, lifestyle items, and weddings.
Reminiscence Arts for Dementia
Riding on the success of JADe, Dementia Singapore enhanced the programme and developed e-learning modules to reach out to more individuals who wish to conduct interactive reminiscence arts sessions for persons living with dementia using objects, storytelling, and artwork materials.
The comprehensive programme is practical and includes a variety of useful resources to start a purposeful reminiscence session.
Visit DementiaHub.SG to read more about reminiscence.