The purpose of the Fellowship is to create the potential for more interventions for people living with dementia and embed practice in our programmes through adopting an action research model which will allow for testing out new ways to develop the Azure model as aforementioned, identify evaluation methodologies that are sensitive to the ‘social model ‘ of engagement that we are adopting and to work in partnership with our medical colleagues in the MISA institute and Trinity College to both grow the number of participants in our programmes and to reflect on its effectiveness and to disseminate the learning through our national and international networks.
The following areas of research are being explored:
Bairbre-Ann Harkin comes to IMMA from Butler Gallery, where she spent six years as Education Curator. She is on the board of Arts & Disability Ireland and facilitates art-looking tours, trainings and workshops for organisations nationally and internationally. She introduces herself here:
“My name is Bairbre-Ann Harkin and I am an art educator with a particular interest in accessible programming. As IMMA’s Art & Ageing Fellow, I look forward to developing IMMA’s programme for people living with dementia and their families and carers. I first learned of dementia-friendly programming during an internship at MoMA New York. When I returned to Ireland, I developed a similar programme for the exhibition Dublin Contemporary 2011. While working as Education Curator for Butler Gallery in Kilkenny, I developed and delivered programmes for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. During this time, we became a founding partner in the European Project, ‘Museums, Art & Alzheimer’s’ and the national ‘Azure Project’, alongside the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Age & Opportunity and IMMA – so I am no stranger to IMMA’s fantastic learning and public engagement team and am excited to work more closely with them over the course of the Fellowship.”
In recent years there have been significant developments in Ireland in; our understanding of the needs of our ageing population; the ways in which society can support healthy and successful ageing; and in work to raise the standards and expectation of the care for older people. The Irish situation is particularly challenging as Ireland has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in Europe.
This means our older people are amongst the least healthy in Europe and Trinity and St James’s hospital recently commenced a ground-breaking longitudinal study on ageing (TILDA) with a view to investigating the health, social, economic, environmental and genetic factors which contribute to such strikingly higher mortality. One the key initial findings from this report is the importance of creative engagement as a means to improve brain health and combat loneliness and isolation.
Two centres of excellence have now been established in Ireland to implement some of the key findings from the study, one at Trinity (Trinity EngAGE is Ireland’s Global Centre for excellence in Ageing research) and the other at St James’ Hospital (Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing – MISA).
There are currently almost 48,000 people living with dementia in Ireland and 50,000 family carers caring for someone with dementia. Due to our ageing population it is estimated that the number of people living with dementia will rise to over 153,000 by 2046. This is a community that is particular vulnerable to social exclusion and there is an important role that we can play. IMMA are working as a key cultural partner with both centres to explore the potential held by the arts and in particular the visual arts, for successful ageing.
In the past year IMMA has worked within the institution to develop both awareness and skills with its staff in relation to welcoming and facilitating people living with dementia and their families/carers to the museum. On a national level we have continued to play an active role in the Azure network, to work with Age and Opportunity on one of their training programmes Creative Exchanges for professionals working in care settings and to work directly with our local hospital St. James’ in association with the new centre MISA (Mercers’ Institute for Successful Ageing which is affiliated through its teaching university Trinity College to the Global Brain Health institute.
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