An award-winning Dutch photographer has joined with scientists to develop image-intervention strategies to help seniors with dementia.
The project, Photographic Treatment, was initiated by photographer Laurence Aegerter, according to the project’s website. Aegerter's work offers new insights into how creativity and the arts can be used for brain health recovery.
“With pictures as therapeutic tools, we provide the vulnerable (senior) persons with a positive experience, while at the same time stimulating their brains,” the website states.
Aegerter uses several collections of photographs in different categories, such as nature, modes of transportation and landscapes. A collection of smiling faces is included as well. Many of the photographs are available on the project’s website for downloading.
The photos are shown to seniors in therapeutic sessions, either individually or in group settings. Questions are raised about how the images make a person feel in the present rather than talking about the past.
“The photo-intervention focuses on creative associations rather than memory,” the website states in a March, 2018 entry.
Therapeutic methods were put into practice after consultations with scientists from the fields of neurology, geriatrics and psychology. Photographic Treatment is funded by the Art of Societies Foundation.
In contrast to Photographic Treatment’s approach, photographs have often been used with seniors to discuss memories from their past.
A focus on memory, however, has both pros and cons, according to Mark Butler in, “Photography in Care; Care in Photography,” July 21, 2014, on a Dementia Services Development Trust website. The trust is sponsored by the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Seniors are often surrounded by photographs, Butler notes.
“Photographs, never straightforward, take on all sorts of roles in care settings,” Butler writes.
While images of past lives can be ways for care givers to hold conversations with seniors, they can become challenging as dementia progresses. After all, interpreting images can be complicated.
Also, photographs offer only a selected, often times rosy, representation of events. Actual events seldom correspond with snap shots taken of what took place in the past, Butler states.
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