It's Never Too Early To connect2culture®

Nancy Lee Hendley

Former Manager of connect2culture®

Suppose that you and a person with dementia could attend a concert at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, view art at The Met Cloisters, examine artifacts at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, or pot a plant at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden? What might that experience look like?

After a diagnosis of dementia, it often becomes increasingly difficult for the person with dementia and for the caregiver to enjoy social outings. As the illness makes its way to the center of our lives, a lot of other living gets crowded out. For the person with dementia, trying to interpret environmental cues, finding just the right thought to contribute, determining the proper way to interact, and even following a conversation can be frustrating or discouraging. For the caregiver, concern over how the person with dementia will respond, wondering how the person will take to the activity, and concern about how others might react can make socializing a challenge. As a result we find ourselves with less and less desire to do things that used to bring us pleasure. Unfortunately, this kind of living keeps us from enjoying ourselves and tends to be a cause of distress and depression.

connect2culture® at CaringKind is a program supported by a generous grant from the New York State Department of Health to enhance the lives of persons with dementia and their caregivers. The goals of connect2culture are threefold: to give support and education to existing cultural programs for people with dementia and their caregivers, to initiate and assist in creating additional cultural programs in various venues throughout the five boroughs, and to assist caregivers in finding appropriate activities for themselves and the person for whom they care.

In 2006 the Museum of Modern Art piloted Meet Me at MoMA, which brought persons with memory loss and their caregivers to the museum to view and discuss artworks in a safe, supportive group setting. Since then, a multitude of new and diverse offerings have launched and ongoing programs exist throughout the city. The Arts and Minds organization offers programs at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The New York Historical Society, and El Museo del Barrio (the first offering of its kind in Spanish in the city). Lincoln Center piloted two highly successful concerts this spring with six additional concerts on the schedule for next season. The Jewish Museum, The American Museum of Folk Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Met Cloisters provide outstanding, engaging programs. There are opportunities to sing with The Unforgettables, to participate in a Social Tea Dance with Rhythm Break Cares in Manhattan, and to Dance Like Nobody’s Watching at the Brooklyn Library. The Brooklyn Museum offers an art viewing program. A pilot program at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has brought gardening into the connect2culture scope.

Every program includes key components that help to ensure a successful outing. They are scheduled at an optimal time of the day, and many of them occur when the venue is closed to the public or set in a space with comfortable seating that is exclusive for the event. Participants are personally greeted and small groups are formed. In addition to having expertise in a particular subject matter, educators are trained in dementia care and have a good understanding of the type of support that persons with dementia require. A limited number of works are presented and each session is developed specifically to engage persons with dementia with an approach that encourages conversation and input from every participant. Many programs offer tactile explorations and some offer an art making component. All of the programs are free of charge.

It is possible to envision these events; they are already in progress! I invite you to explore these valuable resources. We at connect2culture are dedicated to continuing to provide opportunities for you. Please feel free to call with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. For a complete list of connect2culture offerings please visit our website or call the 24-hour Helpline at 646-744-2900.

After ten years at CaringKind, as both a Dementia Care Trainer and the Manager of connect2culture, Nancy Lee Hendley has left CaringKind to pursue other opportunities. We thank her for her many years of dedicated service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

We also welcome Meredith Wong as the new Manager of connect2culture. Meredith brings a wealth of experience with museum education and enthusiasm for developing access programs to the position and we are excited to have her on board. You can reach her at

To learn more about connect2culture programs in NYC, please click here.

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