Henry Ford and DSO organize event accessible to people with dementia


Jim Morford, 79, cannot recall his monthly visits with his wife, Linda, to Orchestra Hall for the past 15 years, but his love for the symphony continues.

Before Alzheimer’s disease took those memories away, they had seasonal passes to classical concerts with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Linda Morford, 78, recalled the night trips to the lobby, rain or shine. On a stormy winter night, she even remembers beating some of the musicians in the concert.

Jim Morford doesremember his trips to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra over two decades ago, before they moved to Michigan as honeymooners and founded the DSO. Linda said she and Jim started out with six DSO shows, then eight, then 10, until they finally had a season pass for years.

When Jim was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, their trips to Orchestra Hall have become less frequent. When COVID-19 hit, theystopped goingabsolutely.

Virtual programming during COVID-19

To replace in-person concerts, which had been a way for people going through similar difficulties to connect, the DSO hosted virtual performances for the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to provide “just a sense of normalcy,” said Kiersten Alcorn, DSO’s community engagement coordinator.

“Every month we would sit here in front of our computer on a Zoom call, and there were a few musicians from the DSO in their house, and they would play and tell their stories, and they would answer questions, and it was just a blessing for them. us, ”Linda said. “We really enjoyed it very much.”

The Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association has launched Community Connect, which compiles all of the dementia-friendly events in the area and posts them in a monthly calendar. Thanks to this, Jim and Linda rediscovered the DSO.

Suitable for people with dementia at Orchestra Hall

The DSO suffered Saline solution suitable for dementia a business training, which is a one hour session on what dementia is, how it evolves through the stages and how to welcome people with dementia. This includes speaking more slowly in short sentences, which allows more time to process and answer questions.

The orchestra has also performed at the Alzheimer’s Association office and are now working to bring dementia-friendly events back to the pre-pandemic era.

“Being pro-dementia is going to mean more than it used to be, so we’re taking a look at our website,” Alcorn said. “How can it be more accessible? Is there a possibility to create a dementia or accessibility page on the site with our pre-visit materials for the concerts to raise awareness of the building space, to let people know that our staff have training? “

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When Orchestra Hall was still open, Clare Valenti, head of community engagement at DSO, said they would bring members of the Alzheimer’s Association to rehearsals, so they could “see the inner workings of the orchestra and how the orchestra is preparing for a concert “, and interacting with the musicians.

“Being in person and watching the music being created and hearing it live – it’s just completely different,” said Linda Morford. “We are so grateful to the musicians at DSO who took their time and told their stories.”

Valenti said that dementia-friendly training benefits everyone, not just those with a diagnosis. “You just don’t know who is going to walk through the door of Orchestra Hall, so we have to learn to adapt and really make everyone feel really welcome in our space. “

The man behind ‘The Muppets’

This month, the Henry Ford and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have teamed up to deliver a virtual event featuring a presentation by Jim Henson, creator of “The Muppets,” and a DSO string quartet performance.

After:Meet the man behind the Muppets at Henry Ford’s new Jim Henson exhibit

The event is from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Members of the Alzheimer’s Association can register here or by calling 800-272-3900.

Other dementia-friendly events can be found in the Community Connect program of the Alzheimer’s Association. Donations for programs are accepted on its website.

Contact Minnah Arshad: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @minnaharshad.

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