What Do We Mean By Physical Abilities?

Physical abilities refers to the ability to carry out large and small body movements.

In the early stage of dementia, a person may experience mild changes in coordination or fine movements such as drawing or using art tools. In the middle stage, when cognitive and perceptual problems become more apparent, the person develops more risks for safety or falls. In the late stage of the disease, the large body movements decline leading to problems walking safely, sitting without support, and sitting upright. The person can also lose muscle tone, which can make moving and engaging in art-making activities difficult. In addition to the dementia and age-related changes, they may also experience additional medical conditions such as arthritis, which may further compound their physical abilities.

In a gallery or museum program, the participant may have difficulty walking and may hold onto furniture/walls for support. Their hands might be shaky when using art tools like a pencil. They may have reduced sensation, dexterity, and coordination in their hands. They may also have difficulty tolerating loud noises, difficulty bending down or reaching up for objects due to stiffness or restricted movement or they may stop an activity due to pain or limited endurance.

This is important because as you plan and deliver a program, you must consider both safety and ability when selecting locations, materials, tools and activities. Considerations such as seating and movement in museum spaces will be discussed in Module 3: Understanding the Environment, and tools and materials will be explored in Module 5: Understanding Activity. You can support changes in physical ability by the choices and plans you make, ensuring that your participants will have a positive experience, regardless of the changes in ability they have experienced. We will also explore some ideas for spaces that are inaccessible.