A group of people with dementia from the day care centre ‘Ons Thuis’ (‘Our Home’) on Leenderweg regularly goes out to keep in touch with the city and refresh their memories. Why should you stop when you are old?
They crowd around a plinth with an abstract, but equally challenging sculpture on it, in the middle of Stadswandelpark. About twenty senior citizens from Eindhoven, all in the early stages of dementia who are still fit enough to walk, are joining. They are receiving an explanation from Jenneke Lambert, guide of the Van Abbe Museum. She knows all about the origins of some 20 statues in the park, a few of which she highlights during each walk. Jenneke lets them look at the sculptures, admire them, but also feel them. Unlike in the ‘Van Abbe’ itself, you can of course touch them in a park.
For the elderly, the excursions are a great way to keep in touch with the city and its past. Jenneke’s stories bring back old memories. Participant Cees van der Schoot, for instance, knew one of the sculptors who had a statue made in the park. In doing so, he also feeds other memories. “I am an outdoors man anyway. Put me in nature, with trees and flowers and I am happy. I find Jenneke’s stories interesting. It makes you look at a sculpture in a different way”.
Guide Jenneke gets a lot of satisfaction from the excursions: “It is nice that I am not the only one talking. In the beginning, they wait to see which way the cat jumps, but at the third sculpture, they are really excited”.
Tanja Weijts from the day care centre ‘Ons Thuis’, which took the elderly on the trip, sees organising the excursions as a logic task: “The interest in the city and your surroundings does not disappear when you are old, of course. Why should you stop going on cultural excursions and keep people at home? Of course, the communication between a guide and people with Alzheimer’s becomes more difficult. But someone like Jenneke has the gift of grabbing their attention immediately”.
Before the corona pandemic, the Van Abbe Museum regularly invited elderly people – including those with Alzheimer’s – into the museum and hopes to resume that activity from October.
Translated by: Bob