Montessori approach found to improve wellbeing of people living with dementia

In 2014, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic implemented a pilot project to evaluate the impact of Montessori-based activities on the engagement of people with dementia attending planned activity groups at two sites in metropolitan Melbourne. Researchers from the Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care (ACEBAC), La Trobe University undertook an independent evaluation that has revealed an increase in positive engagement amongst participants.

Dr Jo-Anne Rayner, Senior Research Fellow La Trobe University said, “During our investigations we observed a number of statistically significant changes. We saw an increase amongst participants in constructive engagement, in pleasure and in helping others, as well as a reduction in non-engagement.”

“When visiting the two facilities involved, we observed a palpable change in atmosphere as the project progressed, each of them becoming a hive of positive activity,” Dr Rayner said.

The success of the program has resulted in the launch of new video resource ‘Purposeful activities for dementia’ which will assist health care professionals and family carers to engage people living with dementia in meaningful activities.

As part of the initiative, people living with dementia at the Baptcare Southaven Day Centre in Bentleigh and Grevillea House in Doncaster engaged in activities such as cooking, reading groups, gardening and dancing over a period of eight months.

Maree McCabe, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic said, “For people living with dementia, being involved in meaningful activities is important for wellbeing as it provides opportunities for social contact, as well as physical, mental and emotional stimulation. In turn, this leads to increased happiness, and affords individuals with a sense of achievement and meaning.”

Michael Wilson, General Manager for Aged Care Operations at Baptcare said, “We have been delighted by the positive impact the Montessori approach has had on the clients who attend our planned activity group. We encourage all facilities to use the Purposeful activities for dementia resource to develop person-centred, flexible activity programs that focus on people’s strengths, abilities and interests.”

Debra Kowalski, Baptcare Program Coordinator at Southaven said, “The Montessori approach has truly changed all our lives for the better.”

The new resource is based on principles developed by pioneering Italian educator Maria Montessori in the early 1900s that have been adapted to the needs of older adults. This approach recognises the importance of engagement that is tailored to the interests and abilities of each unique individual within their community.

Purposeful activities for dementia can be viewed here.

Funding for the project was provided by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments under the Home and Community Care (HACC) Program.