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Lessening the isolation of dementia. A small group of art lovers is seated in front of Frederick McCubbin’s painting On the Wallaby Track, at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW).

Lessening the isolation of dementia

Discussion roams freely as viewers ponder details of the 1896 oil – the woman seated on the ground leaning against a tree, the man stoking a small fire to boil a billy, the chubby baby lying across its mother’s lap. As a specially trained volunteer guides the viewers, small details spark conversations that reach back in time and provoke vivid recollections. The group comprises six people with dementia and one carer from a day centre in south-west Sydney who are taking part in the gallery’s Art and Dementia program. The theme is Adventures through the Australian Landscape. As well as the McCubbin, the group views Hans Heysen’s The Coming Home (1904) and Eugene von Guérard’s Waterfall, Strath Creek (1862).

“[It was a time when] there was increasing awareness around art and health in Australia,” says Gullotta. Certainly that was the experience at MoMA. Lessening isolation of Alzheimer’s. Content by UTS A guide talks to gallery visitors as part of the Art and Dementia program.

Lessening isolation of Alzheimer’s

Photo: Courtesy AGNSW A small group of art lovers is seated in front of Frederick McCubbin's painting On the Wallaby Track, at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW). Discussion roams freely as viewers ponder details of the 1896 oil – the woman seated on the ground leaning against a tree, the man stoking a small fire to boil a billy, the chubby baby lying across its mother's lap. As a specially trained volunteer guides the viewers, small details spark conversations that reach back in time and provoke vivid recollections. The theme is Adventures through the Australian Landscape. At each work, the guide frames discussion topics, points out certain elements and poses questions – the smells of the bush, the time of day, the chubby baby, and how they got him there with no pram. "[It was a time when] there was increasing awareness around art and health in Australia," says Gullotta.

Brand Discover : Brink. Jane Davidson realised she had a problem when the ocean started to look like the welcoming embrace of death.

Brand Discover : Brink

“Every day I used to walk along the beach front where I live and I thought: ‘I just want to go and drown in the ocean’,” she says. The social worker from Sydney’s northern beaches was six weeks into being a new mother. Her son, William, was chronically ill with a then-undiagnosed milk protein intolerance. Davidson cried every day; she wept from shame, from a sense of hopelessness. “For me, at about the six-week mark, that’s when things really started to crumble. It is estimated about 15 per cent of new mothers experience postnatal depression, and 3 per cent are severely affected.

But despite the huge impact on mothers and their families, little is known about the condition’s causes. Dr Fenglian Xu, a researcher in the health faculty at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), aims to change that. “It’s not easy to control, so preventing it is very important,” she says. Touch therapy: teams look to fill idle hands. When people who have made things with their hands their entire lives reach late-stage dementia, they often sit still with nothing to occupy them.

Touch therapy: teams look to fill idle hands

Addressing this is the key to an international research project. Researchers in the UK and Australia have partnered to create objects for fun and enjoyment for people with dementia. The University of Technology, Sydney’s Dr Gail Kenning, who is part of the team behind the project, said: “What we’re suggesting is that often things people have done all their lives, like crafting, playing games, can be adapted to suit people with dementia – to give them activities. “What we also find is that these sorts of activities can be bridges and build on relationships [with] family members and carers, who often don’t know what to do or what conversations to have with people with dementia.” Want to share your thoughts on this topic? Icdc c - 3rd ICDC conf... Icdc c - 3rd ICDC conf...

Forget me not - AGNSWs new art and dementia program. New developments bolster the AGNSWs Art and Dementia program, ensuring greater research and more access to events.

Forget me not - AGNSWs new art and dementia program

AGNSW Access Coordinator Danielle Gullotta leading an AGNSW Arts and Dementia Access tour. Image: Courtesy AGNSW With NSW Senior’s Week approaching (14-22 March), it is a timely moment to consider our ageing population. Currently the third leading cause of death in Australia, Dementia and Alzheimer disease is forecast to be our largest cause of death within the next twenty years. With 120,000 people in NSW living with dementia today, together with their carers, these numbers represent a large part of the community. This Senior's Week theme “Be Inspired” sits strongly with the Art Gallery of NSW's vision to encourage creativity and fuel the imagination. The gallery's Art and Dementia program was conceived by gallery benefactor Kate Alderidge, who provided seed funding in 2011.