Heritage and Dementia

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This article focuses on museum-oriented welfare activities for people with dementia. Research has shown that the use of heritage objects in these programs has a positive correlation with the overall well-being of the participants. There is a clear rising prevalence of dementia in Flanders, and there have been increasing initiatives by heritage institutions. The Flemish government also stimulated these initiatives through the cultural heritage decree of 2017. However, these programs are not yet widely embedded in Flanders. Of all accredited Flemish heritage institutions, only 27 percent currently offer a dementia related program. These first tentative initiatives also have encountered issues on several organizational levels that have obstructed continuation of the programs. This research provides insight into the various barriers that both the heritage field and the welfare sectors are confronted with concerning these types of programs. Interviews were organized with key stakeholders to characterize the variety of programs and identify the barriers. A focus group with the different actors (heritage professionals, care givers, informal carers, and occupational therapists) was organized to discuss the varied issues and the solutions for breaking these barriers. The results of this research indicated that interdisciplinary cooperation between the heritage field and welfare sector is necessary in order to optimize museum-oriented welfare programs and increase access to the already existing programs. A set of recommendations were formulated that will assist museums and other heritage institutions to create a more profound impact with the existing programs and stimulate the development of new initiatives.