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Alzheimer’s Patients Meet MAG

By Joan K. Yanni, Docent Newsletter Editor-in-Chief

A partnership between the Memorial Art Gallery and the Alzheimer’s Association has been formed to help patients with dementia reconnect with families and with the world around them.

“Meet Me at the MAG” is modeled after a popular program at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and is one of several things that the Memorial Art Gallery is doing to integrate the visual arts and health care, including a program that uses works of art to teach medical students to hone their powers of observation.

spencerArt is ideally suited to help unleash memories. This program was first tried in an area nursing home and was found to be successful. One day last month, when the Gallery was closed to the public, several Alzheimer’s patients with their partners were invited to visit the Gallery. They were greeted by docents trained to ask questions such as “What does this make you think of?” and then to follow up with further questions. Everyone could identify with Genesee Oaks; and Peeling Onions brought memories pouring out.

Susan Daiss, director of education, says that works are carefully selected for strong, narrative content and the potential for association. Soldier on Leave, once a Saturday Evening Post cover, shows a scene on a train where a young man in uniform is seated beside a young woman with a gardenia in her hair. This scene would not jog the memory of a young person, but anyone who lived through the war years would remember such scenes.

Beginning in June, the Gallery is scheduling a monthly visit with the Alzheimer’s Association, planned for the first Tuesday of the month from 2:30 to 4 pm. The Alzheimer’s Association is handling the reservations.

Democrat and Chronicle columnist Mark Hare wrote on the program on Sunday, April 19, 2009.

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