First purpose-built space in a museum for those with mild cognitive impairment and dementia

by | April 11, 2023

The space comprises of a group activity area, an immersive projection cave, a Quiet Room, and music booths.


Senior-friendly workshops at the Activity Space.

The National Museum of Singapore has created the first purpose-built dedicated space for seniors, particularly those with mild cognitive impairment and dementia, and will serve as a non-medical intervention. Named Reunion, the approximately 290sqm space which opens on April 13, will support the museum’s initiatives for seniors, and encourage meaningful conversations and spark memories using the museum’s collection and exhibition galleries.

The space, which comprises a café and Activity Space, is in partnership with Lien Foundation. The Activity Space features a group activity area where the National Museum and its partners will hold monthly programmes. For instance, each month, there is a mystery cart with items from the past and participants will have a chance to share their thoughts on the items.

There is also an immersive projection cave called Memory Lane, where seniors work with their caregivers to create their own exhibition using museum artefacts shown on an iPad such as a background of a Malay kampong and the items in the room. Other features of the space is a Quiet Room for seniors who are susceptible to sensory disturbances and mood changes where they can go to for a calmer environment. There are also several music booths where seniors get to select curated familiar tunes in various moods and languages, which are updated monthly, on iPads. If the songs are not on the list, they can then make suggestions. The space, which is wheelchair accessible, will have volunteer “care facilitators” who will assist the seniors in the various areas and activities.

Reflecting the museum’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, the space will serve as a place for seniors to connect with their caregivers as well as other seniors. The monthly programmes will be detailed on the museum’s website and participants are encouraged to register.


Designed for seniors in mind

An immersive projection cave called Memory Lane.

Resembling a space that feels like our home, Reunion exudes a sense of warmth through the choice of colours in the activity and café spaces as well as the natural lighting that comes in through the windows, which will allow people to look out and enjoy the surrounding greenery. The space includes ample seating for seniors, and the choice of rattan

weave on the cabinetry and parts of the interior pay homage to our local heritage. Elements of nature are also incorporated into the overall design, featuring the museum’s prized natural history collection on the walls of the activity and the café spaces. Reunion seeks to provide a warm and welcoming space for seniors to enjoy the various programmes within the museum and encourage them to further explore the museum building and its rich collection that can support their well-being.

Music booth

Reunion was designed by the National Museum’s partner and architectural consultant, RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, in consultation with seniors (including seniors with dementia and their caregivers) and partners from the health and social care sectors including Dementia Singapore, Apex Harmony Lodge, Peacehaven, and healthcare professionals (doctors and occupational therapists) from the private and public sectors. The design team from RSP conducted research to ensure that the space is senior- and dementia-friendly, and together with the museum, engaged stakeholders throughout the design process. The stakeholders helped to choose the activity and dining chairs, colour of the entrance cove of Reunion and the interior, and even the flooring for the space, from a selection identified by RSP. According to the National Museum, the seniors even suggested adding a foot rest in the Quiet Room.


A café

Rounding up their experience at Reunion, the seniors can then proceed to Café Brera to enjoy fresh bakes and wholesome food suitable for seniors, over hearty conversations. At Café Brera, seniors can also order dysphagia-friendly food which are suitable for those with swallowing difficulties.

Café Brera at Reunion.

A majority of the Café Brera team also comprises seniors, as the café welcomes them to work, mingle, contribute and do things together. Inspired by Japan’s “The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders”, which seeks to create awareness and understanding for dementia, Café Brera and the National Museum likewise hope to empower seniors and contribute to an inclusive society. In the months to come, the National Museum and Café Brera will offer food programmes that encourage healthy eating, especially among seniors to support their well-being. The café like Reunion is catered to the needs of seniors such as selected furniture options for seniors with differing physical needs.There is a 10-percent discount for seniors at the café. Currently, the staff at the café are mostly seniors without mild cognitive impairment or dementia, however, café owner, Thrina Low has shared that she is open to hiring seniors or persons with dementia as long as they are equipped with the right skill sets.

While Reunion is developed for seniors, the café is open to all visitors. Seniors, and all other visitors, can also walk in and enjoy the music booths or virtual exhibitions in the space before continuing their exploration of the museum, especially on days when there are no programmes held in the activity space.

As a first step, Reunion will focus on seniors living with mild cognitive impairment and dementia with the introduction of Refresh and Reconnect!, a new eight-week signature non-medical heritage-based intervention programme. This includes gallery tours led by the museum’s care facilitators and complementary hands-on activities that feature different art forms to encourage new learning among participants. This will complement the National Museum’s ongoing accessible programming such as Quiet Mornings, monthly senior-friendly tours and activities in conjunction with the museum’s special exhibitions, which will be held at Reunion. Reunion is being funded for three years. After which, the National Museum will review the partnership agreement to examine other ways they can achieve this goal through other programmes.

Reunion opens daily from 9am to 6pm, and the café opens daily from 9am to 5pm.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: National Museum of Singapore)


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