Health

Singapore launches My House of Memories app

Senior from NTUC Health using the app. PHOTO: NHB

The National Heritage Board (NHB), National Museums Liverpool and the British Council are pleased to announce the launch of the Singapore version of the My House of Memories app which draws on the power of familiar objects and images to elicit memories for persons living with dementia to encourage reminiscence and interaction with their caregivers.

The My House of Memories app is a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the three parties to co-develop and co-present, in Singapore, the award-winning House of Memories dementia awareness training programme. The MoU, supported by the SG-UK Partnership for the Future, serves to affirm the strong cultural ties between the governments of Singapore and the United Kingdom (UK), and the two governments’ shared commitment to enhancing well-being and access to arts and heritage.

Conceived in the UK by National Museums Liverpool, the My House of Memories app is a digital resource which has won multiple awards including the Exceptional Achievement Award, Museums Association in 2018. It has been adapted to the needs of other countries such as the United States of America, and now, Singapore. To date, in the UK and internationally, there have been more than 33,000 downloads of the app and more than 12,500 health and social care professionals and family caregivers have received the House of Memories dementia awareness training.

“Through the My House of Memories Singapore app, we hope to create and place a valuable resource kit and a personal museum into the hands of persons living with dementia and their caregivers, and in doing so, to leverage on our heritage resources as ‘memory triggers’ and ‘conversation starters’ for persons living with dementia so that they can continue to age gracefully and meaningfully,” said Mr Alvin Tan, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy & Community) of NHB.

Designing the App with Singaporeans, for Singaporeans
To ensure strong relevance to Singaporeans, the My House of Memories app has been designed for, and adapted to, the Singapore context. The app features a curated selection of 100 objects from Singapore’s National Collection and 11 additional objects from the Alzheimer’s Disease Association. In selecting these objects, NHB worked closely with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to organise community consultation sessions with over 40 seniors from NTUC Health.

Featuring relatable everyday items, these objects from Singapore’s National Collection are brought to life in the app through multimedia features and images. To enhance usability, they are grouped into six key themes comprising “Festivals and Special Occasions”, “Lifestyle”, “Food and Drinks”, “Household Items”, “Jobs” and “Growing Up”.

HDB Flats in Toa Payoh in the 1960s. Credit: National Museum of Singapore

Before its launch, the My House of Memories app has been tested with NTUC Health to observe its effectiveness in spurring recall and facilitating conversations between seniors and their caregivers. Some of the more popular objects among the seniors include the Setron television set, which produced the first local black-and-white television set in Singapore in 1964; the photograph of HDB flats in Toa Payoh, which reminded the seniors of their new homes after moving out of kampongs; and the kopitiam (coffee shop) cup and saucer set – a well-recognised crockery that can still be found at many kopitiams and even modern café chains today. Please refer to Annex B for a list of artefact highlights featured in the app.

“Looking at these images of objects from the past helps me to remember the old days, which lifts my spirits and makes me feel happy. I will definitely share these memories and experiences with my family members,” said Mr Siow Yee Chiang, 78, a participant from NTUC Health Day Centre for Seniors (Bukit Batok West).

Besides retrieving and talking about objects from the National Collection, users of the app will also get to create personal albums close to the hearts of the persons living with dementia. They can simply snap pictures of objects, people, places and/or activities, and upload them to the app for easy retrieval and use. This allows caregivers to personalise the app’s contents, making them more meaningful for those under their care.

With inputs from AIC, the My House of Memories app also serves as a resource that provides localised content such as information on dementia in Singapore, suggestions of activities for seniors and caregivers to engage in, and contacts for persons living with dementia and their caregivers to reach out to.

PHOTO: NHB

Following the launch of the app, NHB will work with AIC to reach out to and encourage partners in the community care sector to utilise the app to facilitate conversations, or incorporate it into reminiscence-related activities with persons living with dementia. NHB will also be working with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and the Geriatric Education and Research Institute to pilot a study on the effectiveness of the app, with healthcare professionals and persons living with dementia.

The My House of Memories app can be downloaded for free via the App Store and Google Play Store, as well as https://go.gov.sg/silverhubs. To reach out to more seniors, the content on the My House of Memories app will be translated into Singapore’s other official languages, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, in its second phase next year, and these versions will be progressively made available for Singaporeans to download and use.

The My House of Memories app is part of NHB’s Silver Hubs initiative, and will complement Silver Hubs’ other offerings such as Conversation Starter Kits and Heritage Trunks that also serve to encourage conversations and the sharing of memories through images or the handling of objects.

“Our cultural heritage has the power to connect all of us as Singaporeans,” said Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, Singapore. “We should harness this rich heritage, not least to help vulnerable segments of society connect with others and uplift their spirits. I am excited that this new app creatively uses our arts and heritage to invoke memories which will encourage interactions between persons with dementia and their caregivers.

“I am also heartened that the development of this app is the result of close cultural ties between Singapore and the UK, one of our longstanding and active partners in the arts and culture sector, and across the breadth of our bilateral relationship. I look forward to more of such meaningful collaborations that contribute to the wellbeing of our communities.”

Greater Support for Persons Living with Dementia through Museum-Led Dementia Awareness Training

PHOTO: National Heritage Board

As part of the broader House of Memories dementia awareness training programme, National Museums Liverpool in partnership with NHB and AIC will be providing museum-led dementia awareness training sessions in 2021 for health and social care professionals, families and care partners of persons living with dementia. A total of 10 training sessions will be organised for up to 400 health and social care staff as well as caregivers on how to use the app and how stimulating and sharing memories about one’s life history is important to support persons living with dementia and their families.

Besides learning how to use the Singapore version of the My House of Memories app, participants of the training sessions can also take part in activities such as memory walks at NHB’s museums to equip themselves with skills to better communicate with persons living with dementia, by encouraging the sharing of life stories.

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