A therapeutic trip for elders: “Museum on Prescription” Practical guide by the National Taiwan Museum
Author: Pei-Ting, Cheng (Postgraduate, Arts Management and Cultural Policy, NTUA)
Translator: Chi-Yiu Billy, Cheung (Postgraduate, Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, TNUA)
＊Photographs in this article is authorized by the National Taiwan Museum
Social Prescribing, which is prevalent in Europe and North America, is a medical prescription that combines music, art and other cultural activities. From the perspective of the prevention and management of mental health, it offers comprehensive caring services and supports through the cluster of the medical institution and local community.
As a part of the social support system, museums are capable for therapy with its abundant cultural resources and the relaxing atmosphere. Hence, the concept of “Museum on Prescription” was brought into application. Museum on Prescription are now used at the prevention and early-staged treatment of Dementia. With a customized prescription, the elderly and their caretaker will be able to visit museums or participate in activities at a lower cost, or even for free. Museum on Prescription benefits in delaying cognitive declination and vitalizing the memories of the elderly, while relieving the pressure of their caretakers.
Application: “Museum on Prescription” in the NTM
As a response to the aging population and the global trend, Taiwan has been developing its own Museum on Prescription in the recent years. National Taiwan Museum (NTM) signed a MOU with Taipei City Hospital in 2019, carrying out the Museum on Prescription service to the elderly with Dementia. NTM hopes to stimulate the senses of the elderly for a therapeutic purpose, through the interaction with the exhibits.
A visit to the permanent exhibition “Discovering Taiwan”of NTM, vitalizing the sense of elderly through interactive tour.
“Market Tours: The Biology of Food” was an education program for elderly with Dementia, inviting the elderly with their caretakers to visit a market-themed exhibition.
As the pioneer in developing Museum on Prescription in Taiwan, NTM had organized two educational events on Dementia: “Market Tours: The Biology of Food” and “A relaxing trip: heartwarming sock dolls”. “Market Tours: The Biology of Food” constructed a traditional market in our collective memory with theatrical setup, inviting elderly with Dementia and their caretaker to explore through interactive games. “A relaxing trip: heartwarming sock dolls” was a series of activities, including a visit to the NTM permanent exhibition “Discovering Taiwan” and art workshop, vitalizing the senses of the elderly through the interesting tour and the handmade dolls workshop. Apart from the one-off activities, NTM will also launch a ten-week education program for elderly, in order to offer caring service and therapy through the long-term activities.
As for the volunteers, who is the frontliner of a museum, trainings on enhancing Dementia related knowledge and communicating skills were designed and provided by the NTM. There are over 70 volunteers and docent taking shift in the NTM, offering their services to the elderly and their caretakers for a more comprehensive museum experience.
Joining hands: experience inheritance of the practical guide
In the process of developing the Museum on Prescription with the Taipei City Hospital, NTM shared the information they collected and their experience with the public in the “Museum Prescription: A Practical Guide”. Six Principles on organizing educational program for elderly were conducted through the discussion of scholars, museum officers, elderly with Dementia and the caretakers. The followings are the steps that the guide suggested:
Decide who will be participating and what is the core value of the program
Set up a suitable theme and select the artifacts accordingly
Adjust the method of execution of the program according to the participants
Role-setting and training
Carry out the program
Despite the principles and procedures were conducted, NTM emphasize that multiple patterns should be considered on designing and practice. Inventory and precise target should be made before planning a program, in order to design a suitable Museum on Prescription according to the specialty of the museum.
As our society is aging, elderly issues are crucial topic which museums have to face. NTM integrated the context of Museum on Prescription in exoteric language with the retrospective of their experience on carrying out the program. Principles for designing, theme-setting and exhibition were summarized, laying groundwork for the application of Museum on Prescription on the elderly with Dementia in Taiwan. It is worth mentioning that, despite the Museum on Prescription are commonly used on the caring services and supports for the elderly with Dementia, it can also be used in aiding the therapy on chronic disease and mental illness, as therapeutic characteristics of the museums.