Reminiscence programming in museums has been shown to improve relationships between older people and their carers.
Originally based on research conducted in the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City, the findings presented by Rosenberg in Meet Me: Making Art Accessible to People with Dementia (2009) have been mirrored in smaller studies across North America and Europe.
Museums and dementia programming
Many of Scotland’s museums run programming for older people living with dementia, and while the benefits of this programming have been shown in a number of ways, the clearest evidence has been demonstrated in the improved wellness indicators of both those living with memory loss and those who care for them. This has been found to be true not only for those carers who attend sessions, but also for those who work with the dementia sufferers at other times, showing that the benefits of reminiscence sessions last well beyond the time period of the session itself, and go beyond the direct beneficiaries.
Collecting your evidence
We know that a range of museums offer programming that supports older people and those living with memory loss. To effectively demonstrate the social value of this programming, we encourage museums to share this high-level statement, based on Rosenberg’s study, and then to indicate how their own museum programming engages with this information. This could include numbers of sessions run for older visitors per year, or numbers of attendees at sessions including reminiscence, object handling, music, or dance components.
Sporting Memories, a project run by the Scottish Football Museum in partnership with Sports Heritage Scotland, offers supported reminiscence and handling sessions centred around sporting photographs, collections, and personal memorabilia for older people and those living with memory loss or related conditions. Last year, they worked with more than 2500 older people through their drop-in sessions, thereby making an extraordinary impact on the lives of those older people and their carers.
Francesca Rosenberg, Meet Me: Making Art Accessible to People with Dementia (2009)
What to do next
Please explore our advocacy materials to better understand how you can effectively use this information within your wider organisational advocacy approach.