Since its inception four years ago, MoMA’s “Meet Me” program for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients has not only grown increasingly successful, but it has inspired museums around the U.S. to take part. The program provides an opportunity for the patients—most of whom were artists or frequenters of the museum previously—to view current exhibitions during off hours on a carefully guided tour. While art therapy isn’t a new concept, the program is unique in that it allows the patients to reconnect and discuss the work right before them, rather than attempting to recall memories.
Aside from its obvious merits, the program also speaks to me personally. My mother is a docent at the Cleveland Museum of Art (where a pilot program for dementia patients is underway) and my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was young. As my grandfather struggled to recall the names of people and places, it would have been an amazing experience to visit his favorite work of art—the Franklin Institute‘s iconic Giant Heart—with him and watch him interact.
MoMA has created a website that acts as a resource for how to create a program for dementia patients. In addition to themselves and the CMA, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the American Museum of Folk Art and the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science have all adopted programs, with schools such as NYU and corporations such as the MetLife Foundation joining the efforts by donating resources to anyone running similar projects as Meet Me.
One partner organization is StoryCorps, which interviewed some of the patients that attended the MoMA program. Above are excerpts from an interview with an Alzheimer’s patient and designer of the popular Swingline Stapler, who had been exhibited at MoMA and was given the opportunity to go back. See more images in their photo essay.