Teaching Empathy for Dementia by Arts-based Methods

Abstract

The research-project “D.A.S. Dementia. Arts. Society. Artistic Research on Patterns of Perception and Action in the Context of an Aging Society,” funded by the National Research Funds FWF (PEEK) of Austria is based at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. It aims to apply artistic interventions to diverse target groups in order to evoke empathy towards the sensitivities of people with dementia. Young people (10-11 years old), were encouraged to participate in audio-and performance-based artistic interventions during their art lessons in school. The objective was to analyze the potential children have to empathize with people with dementia. How - verbally and via drawings - do they describe an experience that simulates the sensual perceptions of people with dementia? Analysis of their verbal and artistic descriptions of the experience provides insights into the word choices and artistic methods of young people. Interpretations of drawings have been made in different manners over time: they borrow strategies from social sciences, psychology, psychoanalysis, Gestalt psychology, the psychology of perception, art history, linguistics, art therapy, art education, and so on. The author used image-hermeneutical approaches. Especially interesting was the presentation of confusion and disorientation by youth within a short time frame.

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