It is time for the second edition of the Enabling Festival 2019 in Singapore. Enable Asia, is a social enterprise, founded in 2017. Its mission is to address the rapid rise of dementia in Singapore and Asia and to help people with dementia to live with dignity and grace, reduce the stress experienced by caregivers, promote innovative Asian-centric dementia-friendly products and well designed living spaces and provide relevant healthcare knowledge. Their ultimate goal is to build an inclusive dementia-friendly society that is tolerant and mindful. The team wants to stimulate industries, create jobs and positively impact lives and hope people will understand the meaning of love and humanity.
We caught up with one of its founders, Danny Raven Tan to find out more about dementia and what this years festival would focus on.
How did the festival start?
It started when Facing Dementia, a Channel News Asia documentary was screened about my caregiving journey with my mother. It went viral and received 4.6 million views on social media and I received about 5,000 messages from people all over the world, sharing their stories with me. Through their experiences, I realized that dementia awareness was still very low and that a lot of people were struggling to cope, even sinking into depression.
After that, I decided to do something to hopefully minimise the struggle for caregivers, using my own experience, knowledge and support I had received from others.
Tell us a bit about this years Enabling Festival 2019, what can we expect from this years event?
The festival, running from 6th-8th September 2019, is in its second run this year.
The three-day community festival is a kaleidoscope of multidisciplinary activities in the areas of art, music, design, theatre, film, dance, medical forums and hands-on workshops. Through our programmes and activities, we hope to showcase the potentialities in enabling people living with dementia to enjoy a better quality of life.
The festival also shines a spotlight on dementia caregivers, who are often the invisible heroes, providing possibilities for their respite and solace through various interesting activities, such as sharing sessions, a panel discussion on film, meditation and breathing workshops, a Silent Disco, movie screenings, theatre performances and a ukelele workshop, among others.
Technology plays a big part in this years festival with virtual reality mind tours of familiar sights and sounds, devised especially for people with limited mobility. We will also be debuting a simulation of a mothers cradling arms in the form of a Wellness Rocking Chair therapy.
Design innovation in the form of Designathon We Engage, is another event bringing together people from different backgrounds to collaborate, co-create and prototype design solutions for people with dementia and their caregivers.
We are also showcasing Sound Field, is an immersive and interactive installation exploring how people with dementia experience every day city soundscapes. It aims to raise awareness on the role of sound in urban design and simulates what an everyday encounter may feel like, for a person with dementia. This empathy is essential in the design process, which places people and their needs first.
What is the purpose of the festival this year? What would you like your audience to know and understand about dementia?
Our focus for this years Enabling Festival 2019 is on sound (in the form of hearing), one of the five senses. Sound has significant impact on people with dementia in terms of their quality of life.
We launched a video campaign recently, What Does Dementia Sound Like? to get the public to consider what dementia sounds like and we will attempt to share that experience with the public, as much as we can, through a wide curated programmes and activities such as our immersive sound exhibition, silent disco, theatre and workshops.
Tell us some facts about dementia in Singapore and Asia that a lot of people might not know or realise.
A lot of people still think that dementia is a natural progression of old age and that people just become. This is not true! Dementia is an illness which affects the brain, causing its cells to die at a faster rate than normal. It is not a normal part of the ageing process.
As a result, the mental ability and cognitive function of a person with dementia declines. This leads to failing memory, deterioration of intellectual function and personality changes.
What role does art play in dementia care for the elderly or for those with early onset dementia?
Art allows expression when words are lost. In a way, they are not bound by the worldly logic of words to interact. It can reduce frustration and empower someone with dementia to be able to create, so they are free to express themselves in their way through dance, movement, colours, design, paint, a melody or songs. This leads to a sense of achievement when the work is complete.
How can art help carers of people with dementia?
Art heals the soul. It helps you to express yourself when no words can.
Caregiving can be emotionally charged and draining sometimes. That is why art-making can be a very useful outlet for their emotional release. Being aware of their feelings, caregivers can come to terms with their many emotional states while caring for their loved ones.
“The creative process of art-making allows you to be free and get temporarily lost” in the creative journey. This helps with generating a positive caregiving experience. It is even better if it can be shared with the person you are caring for.
While caring for my mother I have involved her in the candle making process and she loves it. Being mindful and aware of emotions, caregivers can reflect on their feelings and find ways to improve or maintain their own mental health.
As an experienced carer yourself, what advice would you give to others who have recently found themselves in the same position?
There is a lot of advice I can share. Here are three tips which I live by. They have really helped me a lot.
- People living with dementia are not trying to give you a hard time, they are having a hard time!
- Treasure every moment with your loved ones and don’t worry about what is going to happen tomorrow because they may not remember when tomorrow comes.
- You must change your mindset about your strong and independent mother or father. Remember they are not well now and they need us, just like how when we were young and helpless we needed them when we were babies. This is probably the most important point that will minimise a lot of frustration. Trust me! We must regularly remind ourselves that they are unwell and that nothing they do is out of spite or malice.
Can you tell us about Zoe Tay’s involvement in this years festival?
My second solo exhibition titled, Undead in 2017 is a series of my responses to how brands, iconic movies and celebrities ‘live’ forever. As part of that I painted a portrait of Zoe Tay, an iconic Singaporean actor who I believe, in due time, will become a legend.
In 2018, Boy George, lead singer of legendary British pop band Culture Club signed a painting which I did for him and pledged it to the festival to raise funds. For similar reasons, we decided to approach Zoe and she agreed to support our cause.
(Both paintings will be showcased at the Enabling Festival 2019, National Design Centre. For enquiry of purchase : please contact email@example.com)
What is the most challenging part of running the Enabling Festival?
I understand the importance of accountability for public funding. However, there must be reasonable guidelines and support to encourage ground up social projects, such as ours. Cumbersome and tedious funding application and administrative procedures only discourage people and sometimes kill potentially good social initiatives and creative ideas before they get started.
What have you learnt through your experiences of running a festival?
The Enabling Festival is a ground up initiative.
We have been sharing our stories and vision with honesty and authenticity with many organisations, government agencies and individuals, to walk with us on this journey.
It is with this pure intention and the passion to impact lives that we synergised with many like-minded individuals who also believe in us. We wish Danny and the team all the very best of luck with this years festival. You can follow them on Facebook, YouTube channel, Instagram and through their website. There are also lots of fun, simple and concise sources of consolidated information about dementia here
Creative Arts Social is a not for profit organization. We believe that art is for everyone. We all have the creative potential to understand, connect with and benefit from the arts. For more information about the work we do here.