The Museum of Modern Art is committed to enabling all visitors to experience its unparalleled collection of modern and contemporary art. MoMA recognizes the diversity of the general public's abilities and needs, and offers a variety of programs and services to ensure the accessibility of the Museum and its collection. Through its Access Programs, each year the Museum serves over 10,000 individuals who have physical, learning, emotional, behavioral, or developmental disabilities, or are partially sighted, blind, hard of hearing, or deaf. Due to the staggering number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease, in 2006 MoMA decided to develop programming for this particular audience, and was one of the first museums in the country to do so.
MoMA’s offerings for individuals with dementia and their care partners include by-request programs for groups coming from care organizations, such as assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and adult-care centers. These programs incorporate lively discussions of artworks as well as art-making components, and take place at the Museum and/or off-site at the organization. The Museum also offers Meet Me at MoMA, a monthly interactive gallery-discussion program for individuals with dementia and their family or professional care partners (preregistration required). Specially trained Museum educators facilitate all program offerings.
The MoMA Alzheimer's Project was the national and international expansion of the Museum's education programs for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and their care partners. It was a special initiative in the Museum's Department of Education, which took place from 2007 to 2014. Funded by a major grant from MetLife Foundation, The MoMA Alzheimer's Project broadened the reach of MoMA's programming through the development of resources that can be used by museums, assisted-living facilities, and other community organizations serving people with dementia and their care partners.
The 2009 publication Meet Me: Making Art Accessible to People with Dementia provides a comprehensive framework for creating art programs for individuals with dementia and their care partners. The publication is made up of guides outlining processes for creating educational experiences with art in an arts institution, a care-facility setting, and in the home, and is intended as a resource for museum and care-organization professionals, as well as for professional and family care partners. An accompanying booklet contains thematic art modules using works from MoMA's collection, with additional reproductions, and a DVD of images that allow users to easily view and discuss these artworks. The entirety of the publication is available on this website, free of charge.
This Web-based resource expands the reach of our print publication by making its contents available online. The site also includes video from special initiatives that have taken place in conjunction with the Museum's art and dementia programs, as well as a series of instructional training videos on how to plan and implement art discussion and art-making programs for this audience.
MoMA and the New York University Center of Excellence for Brain Aging and Dementia completed a groundbreaking evaluative study of Meet Me at MoMA, the Museum’s gallery discussion program for individuals with dementia and their care partners, in 2008. Results, including several statistically significant findings that show improved mood for both people with Alzheimer's disease and care partners, indicate that there can be many benefits associated with programs for people with Alzheimer's disease. To read the executive report, see the NYU Evaluation of Meet Me at MoMA.
In 2011 The MoMA Alzheimer's Project commissioned Audience Focus, Inc., to conduct an investigation of the museum programs that have developed for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and their care partners. Evaluators surveyed the different types of programs that have emerged with the help of The MoMA Alzheimer's Project, and to what degree this programming has affected the educational philosophies and community relationships of participating museums. To read the executive report, see the Evaluation by Audience Focus, Inc.
From 2007 to 2014, staff of The MoMA Alzheimer’s Project reached over 10,500 colleagues through conference presentations and training workshops. Outreach has involved presentations at numerous conferences in the fields of arts, museums, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease. MoMA has also led workshops for the staff, educators, and docents of various museums, and additional online seminars for those interested in developing arts-related programs.
DEMENTIA: Background on Alzheimer's Disease
EXPERIENCE: Meet Me at MoMA
PERSPECTIVES: Conversations and Testimonials
RESEARCH: NYU Center of Excellence for Brain Aging and Dementia
PRACTICE: Guides for Creating Art Programs
Dementia is a general term for a group of brain disorders, of which Alzheimer's disease is the most common. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all dementia cases. Other types include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia. All types of dementia involve mental decline that:
Alzheimer's disease is named for the German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first described the disorder in 1906. Scientists have learned a great deal about this condition in the century since Dr. Alzheimer first drew attention to it. Today we know that Alzheimer's disease:
Today more than five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease. That number has doubled since 1980 and is expected to be as high as sixteen million by 2050. The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias amount to more than $148 billion annually. According to a 2004 report that analyzed Medicare claims data, beneficiaries with dementia cost Medicare three times more than other older beneficiaries. Based on current estimates, these costs will double every ten years.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems remembering certain things. But serious memory loss, confusion, and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. These symptoms may be a sign that brain cells are failing.
The brain has a hundred billion nerve cells, or neurons. Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks. Nerve-cell networks have special jobs: some are involved in thinking, learning, and remembering; others help us see, hear, and smell; and others tell our muscles when to move.
To do their work, brain cells operate like tiny factories, taking in supplies, generating energy, constructing equipment, and getting rid of waste. Cells also process and store information. Keeping everything running requires coordination and large amounts of fuel and oxygen. In a brain affected with Alzheimer's disease,parts of the cells' factories stop running well. It is not known exactly where the trouble starts, but, as in a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs correctly. Eventually they die.
Plaques and tangles — abnormal structures that can develop in the brain — are prime suspects in the damage and death of nerve cells. These were among the abnormalities that Dr. Alzheimer noticed in his patients, although he had different names for them.
Plaques build up between nerve cells. They contain deposits of beta-amyloid, a protein fragment. Tangles, which form inside dying cells, are twisted fibers of tau, another protein.
Although most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer's disease tend to develop far more. These plaques and tangles tend to form in a predictable pattern, beginning in areas important for learning and memory and then spreading to other regions.
Scientists researching Alzheimer's disease are not absolutely sure what role plaques and tangles play. Most believe that they somehow block communication among nerve cells and disrupt the activities that the cells need to survive.
Staging systems provide useful frames of reference for understanding how the disease may unfold. It is important to note, though, that not everyone will experience the same symptoms or progress at the same rate. On average, people with Alzheimer's disease die four to six years after diagnosis, but the duration of the disease can vary from three to twenty years.
Patients are first diagnosed with problems related to memory, thinking, and concentration. Individuals in the early stage typically need minimal assistance with simple daily routines. (At the time of first diagnosis, an individual may have progressed beyond this stage; "early stage" refers to the extent of the disease's progress.)
The term "early onset" or "young onset" indicates Alzheimer's disease in a person under the age of sixty-five. Early-onset individuals may be employed or have children still living at home. Among the issues affected families must face are ensuring financial security, obtaining benefits, and helping children cope with the disease. People who have early-onset dementia may be in any stage of the condition — early, middle, or late. It is estimated that some five hundred thousand people in their thirties, forties, and fifties have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.
Some change in memory is normal as we grow older, but the effects of Alzheimer's disease are more severe than simple lapses. They include difficulties with communicating, learning, thinking, and reasoning — impairments severe enough to have an impact on an individual's work, social activities, and family life in the early and middle stages. Some of the most common effects that people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease experience are:
This information has been adapted with permission from the Alzheimer's Association Web site. For more information, please consult www.alz.org.
This report describes the findings of a study designed to evaluate the efficacy of the Meet Me at MoMA program for people in the early stage of dementia and their family caregivers. This groundbreaking study provides the first formal evaluation that demonstrates, with both quantitative and qualitative evidence, the many benefits of making art accessible to people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. It also points out the elements of the program that have the greatest positive impact and those components that might be modified to further enhance its effects. This evaluation provides valuable information about the feasibility of assessing people in the early stage of dementia and suggests new directions for future programs and studies.
The fact that attendees of the Meet Me at MoMA program return month after month speaks eloquently to the meaning and value it holds for participants. Coming to MoMA again, a place many had visited in the past but were reluctant to return to, was a welcome confirmation that not all valued parts of life have to be forfeited to Alzheimer's disease. This research has helped to identify the specific aspects of the MoMA program that individually and together coalesce to create its impact.
Study participants were very grateful for the Meet Me at MoMA program. As they began to know each other from repeated visits, the desire for more socializing became clear. The setting itself sends the message to the person with dementia that he or she continues to be a person of value, and those participants for whom it was a familiar place can now return with their self-esteem safe and even nurtured.
There were several statistically significant findings from this study, which is gratifying, considering the small sample of participants. They are suggestive of the potential of the Meet Me at MoMA program to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. A longer-term study with a larger number of participants to corroborate and expand the findings of this first study is recommended. This would provide additional evidence for programming that is geared to bring enjoyment and stimulation to people with dementia and their family members and could have major ramifications for the development of interventions for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.
In 2011 The MoMA Alzheimer's Project commissioned Audience Focus, Inc. to conduct an investigation of museum programs developed for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia (AD/D) and their caregivers. The following questions guided the evaluation study:
Throughout this study, the evaluators were struck by the passion with which practitioners talked or wrote about their AD/D programs. Implementing this type of program appears to stimulate museum professionals to reflect sensitively and deeply on their practice, which, in turn, has influenced many of them to think differently about the overall museum experience for all types of audiences. In evaluations of other types of museum programs for families, teachers, students, and general adult audiences, we rarely, if ever, hear practitioners talk about the importance of humor, respect, and patience in the implementation of a public program. These are qualities that not only make for meaningful experiences for museum visitors, but bring deeper meaning to the individuals who implement these programs as well. Additionally, there is evidence that these programs cause a wide range of museum staff members to be more aware of the needs and capabilities of the AD/D audience, even if they are not directly involved in the program.
The conversational, organic approach to experiencing art that the AD/D programs use was a natural outgrowth of the pedagogical strategy of inquiry that many museums already employed. That this more conversational approach has been applied to other museum audiences such as school students and to the regular adult visitor is particularly gratifying. It represents not only a growing acceptance but also an embrace of the needs and motivations of all museum audiences.
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