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Dementia friendly programmes make places like RAMM accessible

RAMM hosts dementia-friendly museum tours

Exeter’s popular museum is opening its doors to people living with dementia, and their carers, in a series of bespoke dementia-friendly events.

Object-handling, art-making, and exhibition tours are just a few of the activities the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) hosts for visitors with dementia and their carers.

Facilitated in a way which encourages discussion of thoughts and ideas, without a focus on memory, the programme enables people with and without dementia to participate on an equal basis, enjoying the museum together.

These programmes form a significant part of University of Exeter Medical School student Debbie Kinsey’s PhD. Debbie’s research will contribute to the creation of her theory which examines the effect of including carers in dementia programmes – the impact of the carer, the person living with dementia, and the relationship between them.

Debbie said: “Dementia care is like care for any chronic health condition. More than just about management, it’s important to find a way to live as well and as fully as possible. Working on research with the RAMM has given me valuable insights into how these programmes work.

“Although this research is within a museum-specific context, the theory will be applicable across many aspects of dementia care.” Debbie is taking part in museum sessions and interviewing participants and staff involved about their experiences.

Although most museum programmes do already involve carers, there is very little research which examines the impact of this. By improving understanding of the effect this has on people living with dementia and their carers, programmes such as these will be able to run more effectively.

Ruth Gidley, RAMM’s Engagement Officer, sums up the museum’s approach:

“We are always striving to make RAMM a safe, welcoming space where people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy this treasure trove that belongs to the city. Our dementia-friendly programme is part of that. We host a lot of activities that you might not know about as a member of the public unless you’ve been part of it - baby-friendly curator talks, specially arranged visits for preschools and older people in sheltered housing, events for and with people with disabilities, late night openings and school holiday sessions. There is so much variety in our collections that there is something for everyone.

“We are really proud of the strong connection with the University of Exeter and grateful for this research, which will help us improve the quality of access for people living with dementia and carers. The museum is a place where people can share an experience and make new memories together.”

Agnieszka Orlowska, Care Home Manager at Malden House, Sidmouth describes the effect of the tours on their residents:

"We strive to make a positive difference to the lives our residents and we love to go out in to the community to visit places of interest, such as the museum. We have been visiting the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery with our residents and staff since January 2018 and we always enjoy different activities and meet wonderful people. Our residents have varied hobbies and interests and we are delighted to support them so they can learn from the interactive and stimulating exhibits and collections. Our residents often leave feeling enthusiastic and happy and when they return to Malden House, they tell everyone about what they have seen and learnt and they can’t wait to go back for another visit. One particular highlight that we enjoyed was the Victorian style Christmas and our residents called it ‘magical’ and left with happy smiles!"

Dementia-friendly events are open to the public on the following dates:

  • Wed 13 Mar 10:30-12:00 Victorian Magic Lantern show & a choir in the museum
  • Thu 25 Apr 10:30-12:30 Object-handling on a spring theme
  • Thu 16 May 10:30-12:30 Tour of the Women Artists gallery
  • Wed 19 Jun 10:30-12:30 Mosaic-making

Debbie’s work forms part of a PhD funded by the Dr & Mrs Alfred Darlington Charitable Trust.

Date: 21 March 2019