Northern Ireland Museums Council
Local museums in Northern Ireland are committed to enhancing health and wellbeing through the Dementia Friendly Museums programme. The idea behind the programme is to create and deliver accessible and inclusive museums for all. Coordinated by the NI Ireland Museums Council, the programme, which started in October 2016, has delivered 25 Dementia Awareness sessions and created more than 250 Dementia Friends in local museums.
This has raised awareness among museum staff on how to support visitors and colleagues who may be living with dementia and has also equipped staff to design programming and activities to engage with those living with dementia and their carers.
One lady with dementia who is finding it more difficult to express herself said to me yesterday: ‘I had forgotten all that – it brings it all back.’
Local museums have developed and delivered dementia-friendly activities, including reminiscence and object handling sessions. They have created loan boxes, music and song workshops, and more recently, incorporated chair-based exercise into their programming.
Participating institutions have also teamed up with the voluntary sector to undertake environmental audits and have introduced small changes such as new signage to improve access for those living with dementia.
Community engagement is crucial to this work and local museums have fostered links to local support groups, sheltered housing and the general public. In many cases this has led to new audiences benefiting from bespoke dementia- friendly programming and it has also enabled regular visitors to maintain a relationship with their local museum after their diagnosis.
One of the dementia support workers who took part in reminiscence activity at Fermanagh County Museum says: “The sessions were a great success. One lady with dementia who is finding it more difficult to express herself said to me yesterday: ‘I had forgotten all that – it brings it all back.’”