RAMM aims to be a welcoming museum to all its visitors. Its dementia-friendly programme – Living Each Season – provides regular opportunities for people with memory problems and their carers to do something enjoyable together.
Photographs projected in the courtyard will bring to life the steps being taken alongside local partner organisations to make Exeter a dementia-friendly city.
RAMM’s monthly dementia-friendly sessions are suitable for people with mild to moderate memory problems, accompanied by a friend, relative or carer. The May session, art-making inspired by spring, is on Thursday 19 May.
Nature and the seasons feature regularly in the programme, which uses the museum and its treasure trove of objects to stimulate the mind, encourage conversation and nourish the individual.
Future sessions include a tour of the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition on Wednesday 22 June and, on Thursday 7 July, a chance to handle a variety of summer-themed objects ranging from a stuffed duck to a summer bonnet.
The next art-making is on Thursday 4 August, followed by an art exhibition tour on Wednesday 28 September.
These two-hour sessions start with refreshments. Illustrated take-home information sheets help conversations continue afterwards.
Tickets normally cost £15 for two (including companion), but the Norman Family Charitable Trust has provided limited funds to allow a free first session. Numbers are limited to ensure the best possible experience. Call 01392 265305 for details.
Tickets can be obtained online and in person from RAMM’s Garden Reception or by phone on 01392 265858 during opening hours, Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
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Image: Living Each Season - behind the scenes
Caption: Living Each Season: a dementia-friendly behind-the-scenes tour including West Bank memory café.
Image: Art Summer RAMM
Caption: Summer dementia-friendly art-making workshop at RAMM
Image: Object Handling Summer RAMM
Caption: Summer dementia-friendly object handling RAMM.
About Living Each Session dementia-friendly sessions at RAMM
RAMM has been working since 2013 to make the museum more dementia-friendly and provide enjoyable, stimulating activities for people with dementia and their carers. We offer sessions at the museum based around a combination of object-handling, creative activities and gallery tours. We use the eclectic nature of our museum’s collections – from Natural History and World Cultures to Fine Art and Archaeology – to spark conversations. This means that sessions are appropriate for all cultural backgrounds and ages, including younger people with dementia. Most sessions are based around the loose theme of the seasons and nature, topics which lend themselves to uplifting discussion.
Sessions provide a chance for people with dementia and their carers to enjoy the moment and feel connected to other people. There is the social circle within the room and also the potential connection through the objects to people who might be far away in time or space. For couples, it is a rare opportunity to share an experience on an equal level, to be treated with respect and warmth both separately and together. We supply hand-outs to extend the impact of each visit and to inspire conversation after participants have returned home.
Our activities have been developed alongside people with dementia and their carers, in partnership with the Alzheimers Society and locally based consultants from Innovations in Dementia, as well as critical friends within the NHS and academic world. Much of our methodology is modelled on a ground-breaking programme at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
Impact on happiness of participant with diagnosis
Participants report enjoying sessions. A woman with dementia told us: “People ask me why do something if I’m only going to forget it. I say, why not? I’ve loved every minute.”
Impact on confusion and memory
The husband of a woman with dementia wrote to the museum, saying, “As far as I am concerned it has been amazing! [My wife] has not seemed to get so confused and often remembers parts of visits to the museum and people she meets there.”
Impact on communication
Several participants with verbal communication issues have been observed lighting up on arrival at the museum, and talking to museum staff despite obvious challenges. Their comments have been slow, but generally relevant and often displaying sophisticated vocabulary. During a group activity to describe skies, one gentleman slowly articulated: “Clouds… are… dramatic.”
Something to talk about after the visit
The wife of a gentleman who could no longer speak with ease wrote to the museum to say she appreciated the sessions and the picture hand-outs they’d received. “Thank you so much for our “Living Each Season” project. What an inspiration you and your staff are. It was such an enjoyable experience, and on a personal level, it has given [my husband] and myself much to discuss at home where he is able to relax and understand what it is all about.”
Different cultures, different memories
A couple attending an object-handling session said they had lived abroad in the early days of their marriage. When discussion focused on a large seashell, the wife said it reminded her of the sea in India. The man remembered that he had worked for Shell Oil.
A gentleman who finds it hard to get words out attended an art-making activity. As a former artist who no longer has access to materials at home (for fear of making too much mess) he relished the opportunity to wield scissors like Matisse. Museum staff and carers undertake the same activities, as everyone in the room is treated like adults, with equal respect. The man’s wife, regularly frustrated with him, was seated at a different table. One museum worker told the gentleman she wasn’t sure her collage was complete. He looked her in the eye, and said clearly and assertively, “Stop there.” She took his advice, and noticed the man’s wife looking at him proudly.
Younger people with dementia
A gentleman in his 50s attended a gallery tour on the theme of winter. In a group discussion on what makes people feel cosy, the man said, “What makes me feel cosy is all of you. I experience everything in the moment, and right now I am filled with warmth for everyone here. I love coming here and seeing all of you.”
Carer’s wellbeing and creativity
The very attentive wife of a gentleman with early onset dementia became emotional after an art-making session, and was advised to talk to her Alzheimer’s Society contact. They wrote to thank the museum for the session, saying it had made the carer - a former jewellery-maker - realise how much she needed creative activity in her life, and they were now able to put her in touch with a local art class.
The husband of a woman with dementia wrote “It has been a great escape for me, and when I have been able to [come too,] a source of relaxation and pleasure.” This man, who sometimes came to museum sessions rather than his own regular art group, also said, “It was such a relief to find something that aroused interest , was enjoyable to her, and she would do on her own. So many times she had refused to cooperate in anything that might have reduced the stress of 100% caring yet I was sure she had knowledge that could help others and it has helped her as well as me.”
Connections transcending illness
A carer who is clearly exasperated with her husband developed a supportive friendship with another woman attending sessions. The fact that one had dementia and one was a carer didn’t seem to make any difference to their mutual support and enjoyment of each other’s company.
One lady spoke out during a group conversation: “I live on my own, and I’m just enjoying listening to all of you and hearing what interesting things everybody has to say.”
A gentleman in transition between home and residential care who attended an object-handling session occasionally appeared to doze off. And yet his observations about objects related to his interests and experiences – in this instance, fashion and clothing – were articulate, fascinating and entertaining for all the staff and participants in the room. Everyone thanked him for coming and said how much they’d appreciated his comments. He went back to Franklyn Hospital talking to his occupational therapist as if he’d just given a presentation and thought it went rather well! Discussions often touch on topical themes such as environmental change.
For more information contact Rob Mackenzie, Marketing Assistant, on 01392 265317 or email@example.com or Steve Upsher, Media Relations Officer, on 01392 265103.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) is one of Exeter City Council’s flagship services. RAMM is also supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
Stunning displays reveal Devon and Exeter’s rich history and global connections. Exotic animals, birds and insects delight children and a changing programme of exhibitions and events means there is likely to be something different to see on every visit. Free entry gives everyone the freedom to visit many times and to stay any length of time.
Awards and standards include Museum of the Year 2012, the Arts Council Designation Scheme, Devon Visitor Attraction of the Year 2012, Collections Trust Best Practice Award 2013, RIBA South West Special Award for Conservation and Building of the Year 2013, the Accreditation Scheme for Museums in the United Kingdom, Inspiring Learning for All, 2012 Silver Tourist Attraction Award in the South West and Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2015.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum &Art Gallery is in Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3RX. Phone 01392 265858. Web: www.exeter.gov.uk/RAMM Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/RAMMuseum and twitter.com/RAMMuseum.
Free admission. Open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays and bank holidays.
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