Why Their Visit To New Britain Museum Proves Invigorating For People With Memory Loss

March 30, 2017


Pouty “Miss Cara Burch” does not look very happy in her 1888 portrait by American artist John Singer Sargent, but she captivated a group of older adults viewing the painting March 22 at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

The Museums & More outing, part of the Memories & More program launched last year by the Hartford HealthCare Senior Services Dementia Committee, brought 24 assisted-living residents with memory loss and staff representing Hartford HealthCare Senior Services communities for some cultural enrichment and mental stimulation.

“The program goal is to integrate people with dementia into the community while providing vibrancy and normalcy while they are visiting the museum,” said Mary Cheney, who heads the Dementia Committee. “Residents were still talking about the wonderful experience the next day.”

At the museum, the guests chatted with docent Claudia Ryan about wearing ruffles like Caroline (“Cara”) Van Cott Burch, the daughter of Brooklyn Daily Eagle managing editor Robert A. Burch and his wife, the former Lizette Montmollin.

“Was she rich or poor?” Ryan asked the group.

“Rich,” said a Jerome Home resident. “Look at her dress. And the fancy chair.”

The trip to the museum took months of planning. Patty O’Brian, the dementia specialist for the Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging, and professionals representing Arbor Rose, Cedar Mountain Commons and Jefferson House coordinated dementia training for 37 volunteer docents at the museum in early March.

Viewing a winter landscape of skaters, the older visitors reflected on when they went skating, nodding when O’Brian asked, “Were your feet cold?”

“This experience was such a success that I am working with our communities to offer it regularly,” Cheney said.

Hartford HealthCare Senior Services is a not-for-profit Hartford HealthCare partner. For more information, call 860.406.6865.