Supporting people with dementia - Museums Association

Supporting people with dementia

House of Memories initiative celebrating 10th anniversary
Wellbeing
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Carol Rogers
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When the House of Memories project began in 2012, it was unusual for a museum to take a direct and active interest in the lives of people living with dementia. But we had a unique perspective and position that could help make important strides in the field of dementia care. Museums are experts at looking after memories, and House of Memories is designed to provide knowledge and understanding of how a person’s history and life experience can be a valuable tool for reaching them in a deeply meaningful way.

We developed interactive training sessions, Memory Suitcases (a free object-loan service) and the My House of Memories app. We also began working closely with the health and social care sector to raise awareness that National Museums Liverpool was an important asset for older people, their families and care networks. 

We have engaged more than 100,000 people; connected digitally with more than 36,000 app users; and raised thousands of pounds in external funding. House of Memories On The Road has enabled us  to take the museum beyond the walls of  our buildings, directly to the community. This level of participation and income for  a museum-led community initiative is unprecedented in the sector, and a powerful indication of House of Memories’ significance to the communities it serves.

In our 10th anniversary year, we’re seizing the opportunity to celebrate our achievements and define the vision for our future. Our mission is to position House of Memories as the world’s leading dementia-friendly digital offer, promoting museum-led dementia training, academic research informing clinical and social practice,  and international partnerships.

House of Memories supports National Museums Liverpool’s vision to create memorable experiences for everyone by providing diverse, age-friendly connections to our collections, venues and exhibitions. Dementia doesn’t discriminate – and neither should we. 

Dementia affects one in six people over the age of 80 in the UK, with one in 20 of those under 65. By 2025, one million people will be living with dementia in the UK,  and by 2050 worldwide dementia cases  are expected to almost triple to 153 million. Two-thirds of people with dementia live at home, and are mostly supported by unpaid care providers. It is this community of care that House of Memories is focused on supporting. 

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Governments around the world are actively exploring community interventions to combat loneliness and social isolation for older people. 

In the UK, there is an urgent need to reduce the pressures on the NHS, through the expansion of integrated care solutions delivered “at place”, as cited within the UK Health and Social Care Act 2022. 

Our evidence and impact demonstrate how museums can bridge the digital divide for older people by building their confidence in using technology, removing language as a potential barrier to communication and by supporting those suffering from loneliness and social isolation. There are multiple evolving opportunities for society to support the dementia community. 

House of Memories allows National Museums Liverpool to inform and help the UK museum, health and social care sectors to view cultural engagement as a positive social intervention for healthy ageing. 

We want to lead a House of Memories national network of museum and social care engagement across England, with a similar framework across the devolved nations, and globally. 

We passionately believe in the power of House of Memories to inform practice, transform relationships and enhance the wellbeing of people living with dementia.

Carol Rogers is the director of House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool

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