Connections: Tours for Adults with Memory Loss

Organization Associated with Program
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
314 S. Park Street
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007

Connections Tours were designed specifically for adults with memory loss like Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease and their caregivers. Connections Tours provides a quiet atmosphere where the visitors can engage with the art, the docent, and others in respectful conversation. Groups are small (maximum of eight visitors plus caregivers) and tours are conducted on Mondays, when the museum is closed to the public. Groups can choose from the following themes: The Five Senses (art can be a feast for all our senses), A Sense of Place (a look at the places we live and love), The Stories of Us (how art can tell stories about our lives), America the Beautiful (art about our country, its people and its history), Ways of Seeing (how artists look at the world in different ways), and Michigan Connections (art and artists tied to the Great Lakes State). The Connections Tour program is two years old and is modeled on the Museum of Modern Art's Meet me at MoMA program. Connections Tours served 243 older adults in the past two years.

Program History

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts mission is the creation and appreciation of the visual arts. The Museum Education program plays a vital role in connecting visitors to the art in our keeping. The goal is to create engaging art experiences for visitors of all ages and backgrounds. As the population continues to age, older adults and adults with memory loss are becoming an underserved audience. Connections Tours was developed in response to that growing need in West Michigan.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Evaluations are conducted by museum staff members throughout the duration of the program. They review attendance numbers as well as written evaluations completed by senior center staff members who brought in a group of older adults. There is also follow up done by phone if need be. 

Evaluations are also provided by museum educators to determine if there were issues with a certain topic or theme, lighting, temperature, etc. 

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

A nice surprise was how fulfilling this program is for the KIA staff and volunteer gallery educators (docents). The most major challenge has been to make sure that the atmosphere in the museum (light, temperature, noise) is conducive to the group's needs. That can be hard to balance with the day to day business of the museum.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Viewing Artwork
Arts Discipline: Literature, Museums, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education
Target Audience: Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Arts Organization
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice