Notes from The Memory Bridge, Indiana

In June our Artistic Director Magdalena Schamberger took part in a week long residential dementia training course in Indiana. We asked her to share her thoughts and experiences from that week

I was lucky enough to have been chosen as one of 12 participants from 5 different countries to participate in The Memory Bridge dementia training retreat in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Memory Bridge was organized as a five-day residential training course, June 17 – 22, co-sponsored by Indiana University’s Centre on Aging & Community and The Foundation for Alzheimer’s and Cultural Memory, set in the beauty of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana.

The Memory Bridge training started off with daily meditations lead by Tibetan monks at the temple. Training days then consisted of a series of lectures by founder Michael Verde, group discussions and exchanges, structured encounters and regular daily visits with our Buddies – individuals living with dementia residing at Autumn Hills, Alzheimer Special Care Centre, followed by reflections about the encounters. We were encouraged to make genuine connections through presence of mind, thereby undertaking a journey together – along with the elders with dementia who were joining us, with the aim to reduce the emotional and social isolation of people with dementia. Participants were asked to bring their careful attention together for the purpose of learning from people with dementia and exploring how we can be with them in ways that are meaningful to them.

Memory Bridge participants age ranged from mid 20’s to their 80’s from a variety of professional backgrounds with a particular interest and knowledge in the area of dementia. This included family carers for people living with dementia, Phd students, Residential care owners and staff, artists, physiotherapists and a junior doctor.

There was an immense value of learning and exchanging knowledge from different perspectives and experiences. We were all connecting beyond whatever we usually consider the uniform that protects us – in my case the red nose.

My participation was made possible thanks to professional development funding from Creative Scotland covering travel and associated costs and a scholarship from Memory Bridge, covering training cost and accommodation .

Image: the participants at The Memory Bridge Training