Wellbeing: An Artful Moments Definition

Having considered the existing work of these prominent researchers in the fields of museums, psychology, and dementia care, alongside our own findings, we have created a new definition to guide our understanding wellbeing. This definition is based on participants’ feedback, our experiences, our knowledge- of dementia, individuals living with dementia, and the Artful Moments program as a whole, as well as our understanding of wellness.

We have chosen the following categories for our definition of wellbeing, and the tool we will use to evaluate it:

  • Connect with others
  • Feel fulfilled
  • Have meaningful experiences
  • Be active
  • Feel recharged
  • Contribute

Connect with Others

You have heard from us about the significance of social connection in Artful Moments programs from the beginning. We have seen and heard from participants how their experiences with the Gallery have positively impacted their lives. Close relationships, such as those between friends and family members and new relationships and opportunities to share an experience with other participants and program facilitators have an important role to play in a person’s wellbeing. We have seen this through couples fondly making connections between works of art and their own lives; through friends and loved ones seeing each other in a new light as they share ideas and opinions together, and in the bonding that forms between participants who had previously not known each other but now consider each other friends.

Each of the four research theories we considered list social connection as a key part of wellbeing, along with feelings of acceptance, belonging and shared support.

Feel Fulfilled

Feeling fulfilled encompasses several ideas – positive emotions like happiness and pleasure, feelings of pride, accomplishment and self-esteem, purpose, and a sense of agency (sense of control over one’s behaviour and thought). Participating in a program like Artful Moments offers opportunities for all of these things by allowing individuals living with dementia -s to contribute and participate in experiences, offering them the autonomy to do so within their own abilities, and providing opportunities to succeed.

This category combines Falk’s ‘Personal wellbeing’ with the positive emotional states, psychological wellbeing and mindful experience of the others.

Have Meaningful Experiences

There is immense satisfaction for many people when they have intellectually stimulating experiences,  and discover new things about themselves, others or their environment. For some this translates to the idea of ‘lifelong learning’, exploring curiosity, or the pleasure of acquiring new skills or knowledge. Throughout this curriculum we advocate for the enjoyment of the process and experience rather than the acquisition of new learning, which takes into consideration the changes that a person living with dementia may experience relating to memory, new learning and cognition. It is for this reason that we do not use ‘learning’ in the title of this category. While traditional measures of learning are less relevant in Artful Moments, it should be understood that participating in learning activities – learning in the moment – brings with it engagement, self-esteem, positive feelings and validation of personhood. It feels good to discover new ideas and talents, and this ‘stimulation’ is a powerful part of wellbeing.

This category considers aspects of each of the theories that we discussed previously. Falk’s ‘Intellectual wellbeing’, Seligman’s ‘Engagement’, Clarke et al’s ‘Going Beyond’, and Five Ways to Wellbeing’s ‘Keep Learning’. In each of these theories we read of the benefits of new learning and experiences, and the feedback received from our own participants corroborates this experience for participants in Artful Moments.

Be Active

Being active can encompass physical health and wellbeing – movement and exercise which is good for body and mind. It can also include a broader idea of being a part of a community – attending public spaces and events. Participating in this way is important for wellbeing and counteracting feelings of stigma, and bias. Being active improves self-esteem and confidence.

Here we consider Falk’s ‘Physical Wellbeing’ which encompasses health and activity as well as ideas of safety, participation and inclusion. It also incorporates FIve Ways to Wellbeing’s ‘Be Active’.

Feel Recharged 

To take time apart from the stress, mundaneness or burdens of the everyday to refresh, rejuvenate, find peace, or inspiration is important for wellbeing. We borrow this category name from Falk’s research, noting that museums offer a unique and meaningful space to experience meaningful restorative moments. People living with dementia may find themselves worn down by their daily routines. And it is well researched and documented regarding the burdens associated with caregiving. Coming to a museum program can be a way for participants, on their own or together with a friend or family member, to step outside of their regular experiences, finding a renewal of their positive feelings.

Interestingly, in a study of a program called House of Memories, researchers found that 45% of participant pairs aligned their motivation with the idea of recharging.

Contribute

The researchers who created the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ Model have found that by giving to others, through acts of kindness, facilitating experiences for others and offering help can improve one’s own wellbeing. This may be due to the positive feelings and the sense of accomplishment that we have when we contribute, and a sense of purpose and connection with others. When you ‘give’ to a loved one by sharing and supporting a positive experience, the wellbeing gained may be even higher.

It is easy to imagine the connection between contributing and wellbeing for the person who attends with a participant, and for the facilitators (wellbeing is important for everyone, not just the participant). By sharing an experience, acknowledging the enjoyment of the moment and the contributions of others, participants will also experience improved wellbeing through giving as well.

This category takes Falk’s ‘Facilitator’ and adds the intention of giving to it to create a meaningful wellbeing experience of contributing and sharing.

Our understanding of wellbeing is that it is something that we all strive towards. It is about finding balance in our lives, and continually reflecting and adjusting our focus as we move towards being ‘well’. There are many factors that can affect our own sense of wellbeing, and how we feel in one moment may be different than the way we feel at another time.

Museum experiences, and specifically those experiences that happen in Artful Moments can have many positive impacts on the sense of wellbeing that our participants have in the moment. For many participants, these positive impacts extend for some time after our time together.

Circular icon of a lightbulb.
AGH-Artful Moments

Take a moment to think about your own reasons and hopes for a museum visit from earlier.

With your list in mind, which of these aspects of wellbeing do you connected with?

en_CAEnglish