How cultural experiences can improve health and wellbeing

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A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with People Living with Dementia – the Whitworth

Beyond Dementia

Beyond Dementia was a Collection Centre exhibition that explores the lived experience of dementia, looking beyond the condition and highlighting the positives.

The exhibition was curated by the Fabulous Forgetful Friends, a group of people living with a diagnosis of dementia based in the Manchester area. Through the exhibition, the group have sought to tackle some of the misunderstandings and stigma surrounding the condition. It explores how the act of both viewing and making art can be a powerful way of connecting with self, forging meaningful connections with others, and improving the general well-being of those living with the condition and their carers.

The Alzheimer’s Society describes dementia as a set of different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. Each person’s experience of the condition is highly individual and can vary hugely to another person’s experience. Symptoms often include memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers predicted to rise to over 1 million by 2025, which is why it is imperative that we seek to find new ways, not only of treating dementia, but improving the quality of life of those living with a diagnosis.

Studies have shown that the creative part of the brain, in people with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, can remain undamaged for years. Being creative means accessing a part of your brain that overrides the stresses of memory loss, elevates mood, re-energises and restores a sense of personal identity.

Over the course of 7 months in 2017, the group have visited the Whitworth every Tuesday, where they have been introduced to a range of artistic techniques through a series of weekly creative workshops led by artists. The workshops have included screen-printing and linocut, ceramics, assemblage and horticulture in our Art Garden. A selection of the resulting artwork is on display in the table-top cases in this room.

The sessions focused on the enjoyment of being ‘in the present moment,’ being creative and making social connections, rather than on reminiscing about past events. In this way the focus is shifted from ideas of recovering something that has been lost, which can often prove painful and frustrating, to actively participating in new experiences and exploring the potential of the present moment.

From this work, Beyond Dementia published ‘A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with People Living with Dementia’.
Close encounters with the arts and museum collections offer an escape, a chance to join in, be creative, and learn about the world and ourselves, to be surprised, to reflect and to care.

 

Please follow the instructions on the publications page to download a free copy of the handbook.