Movie Magic aids Memory Loss at the Frye Art Museum

Many people love watching movies purely for destressing and entertainment, but for those with dementia, certain films can even help bring back memories. Meet Me at the Movies is a program put on at the Frye Art Museum that’s especially designed for people with memory loss and their care partners.

Assembled by co-curators Mary Jane Knecht and Keri Pollock, the program was modeled after leading Alzheimer’s specialist Dr. John Zeisel’s program of the same name. Knecht, who serves as the Frye Art Museum Manager of Creative Aging Programs ,studied with Dr. Zeisel and brought the program to the Frye in 2014.

“I don’t know any other programs like this and that’s why I was interested in bringing it to the Frye,” Knecht said. “[The Frye Art Museum] has been doing programs for the dementia community since 2010 and I was excited to add another program for the dementia community that involves a different art form.”

The program is held quarterly in the auditorium of the Frye. Five clips from movies and documentaries are shown, beginning with Knecht introducing each clip and ending with Pollock leading discussions, asking the audience questions and giving them validations.

Knecht and Pollock modified Zeisel’s program by creating themes for each group of clips shown. Last Sunday, the theme of the program was exploration.

Participants had a chance to journey from the deserts of the film “Lawrence of Arabia,” to the outermost parts of space in the film “The Right Stuff” and back to Earth’s oceans with Sylvia Earle’s documentary “Mission Blue.” Additional themes for 2018 will include aging, the Pacific Northwest and animals.

Pollock said the discussion opportunities after each clip are important for the participants, especially those with dementia because hearing validation is a significant component when living and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

“Many audience members lived somewhere outside of Seattle, have done a lot of traveling or were a part of the Peace Corps which brings about interesting discussions and viewpoints,” Pollock said. “We have gotten to know our regulars and have come to know them as individuals.”

Along with being a curator of the program, Pollock is the Communications Director of Aging Wisdom, which is a group of geriatric care management experts that help families navigate options for aging well. Pollock and Knecht have been partners since the beginning of the program, and it has continued to expand outside of Seattle to Bothell, Port Townsend and Bainbridge Island.

“Since learning about this program several years ago, I’ve been looking forward to introducing it to the Rose Theatre and to Port Townsend,” said Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre. “I’m grateful for this new partnership with the Frye.”

Pollock said Meet Me at the Movies provides an outlet for dementia patients and their caretakers to break free of the isolated environment the condition often brings.

“The Meet Me at the Movies program brings [people with dementia] into a community through arts and naturally engages them in conversation,” Pollock said. “Since the museum and program are free, it is not a barrier for folks.”

The program is made especially for those with dementia and their care partners, but it is open to all ages.

“It can be enjoyed by people of all kinds. We welcome anybody who would like to come to the museum and watch the film,” Knecht said. “It’s a fun program and it’s wonderful when people come with their children and their grandparents.”

Last Sunday, audience members engaged in conversations about the different topics each clip presented, including the Space Race in the 1960s and their experiences visiting deserts and in the Great Barrier Reef. One participant attended John F. Kennedy’s speech about the Space Race while another participant grew up in Australia and witnessed the gradual decrease of the Great Barrier Reef.

There will be other showings of these films relating to exploration on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9. The next Meet Me at the Movies theme will be “Aging” and will premiere in May 19. Admission to the Meet Me at the Movies program and the Frye Art Museum is always free. For more information, contact mknecht@fryemuseum.org

“My goal is that each individual that participates does something satisfying, nurturing and enriching,” Pollock said. “As human beings we like being around other human beings and we like to be entertained. Music [and movies] are a part of that because it feeds us and supports us.”

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