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The Lived Experience: Tunbridge Wells Museum Object Handling Group

Watch Kate Sergeant (Alzheimer's Society Kent and Medway) introducing object handling as an arts-based activity for people living with dementia.
Professor Paul Camic approached us as supporting people with dementia to see if our groups would like to access an art-based therapy and linked us up with the Tunbridge Wells Museum. So I was able to provide the link between the two groups, so introducing the concept of object handling to people with dementia and supporting the staff of the museum to operate the groups to run them with confidence and to approach the subject. The museum staff would come out to us with a suitcase full of objects and engage with people and pique their curiosity. We certainly saw a lot of things that we weren’t expecting. People with dementia that we work with constantly surprise us and we constantly learn from them.
And so people would say things. They’d notice things about objects that we wouldn’t have expected them to be able to articulate. In some people, a very intense emotional response was produced. We had one particular service user who was a retired geography teacher, and we had a beautiful rock cut open to reveal a crystal, a beautiful piece of geology. And he was pretty much nonverbal by the stage, and he just started speaking. He started speaking one word at a time to begin with. He just said, “That’s beautiful. That’s really beautiful,” and then creating sentences, which was a fantastic breakthrough. It really unlocked his verbal skills that had been so impaired for so long. It’s all about discovery.
People with dementia are very often encouraged to reminisce, and this goes beyond reminiscence. The pressure is off. You don’t have to try and remember something. You simply engage in what’s in front of you. And it has benefits in a group sense in that, as a group, you’re discovering and exploring something new together. And it also has individual benefits. So it can really unlock feelings and verbal expression in people who might otherwise find that quite difficult. There are clear benefits for people with dementia experiencing object handling. There are clear changes in mood, lifted mood, reduced anxiety, and just a sense of having achieved something, having learned something and feeling rewarded by that experience.
Someone with dementia doesn’t stop learning, but they may find it just more difficult to remember.

Watch Kate Sergeant (Alzheimer’s Society Kent and Medway) introduce object handling as an arts-based activity for people living with dementia.

Based on an object handling programme for people living with dementia at the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, hear about some of the benefits of object handling for people living with dementia as how the sessions brought out some surprising outcomes.

How much thought do you give to both familiar objects that you pick up on a regular basis, as well as novel objects that you may never have held before? If you come across an object that you have not encountered before, what sorts of questions do you ask yourself to determine what that object might be and what it’s used for?

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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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