National Museum of Singapore Opens Reunion

The First Purpose-built Social Space for Seniors in a Local Museum
4 December 2023

The National Museum of Singapore has created the first purpose-built dedicated social space for seniors in a local museum, in partnership with Lien Foundation. Named Reunion, the space opens on 13 April 2023 and will support the museum’s initiatives for seniors, to encourage meaningful conversations and activities using the museum’s collection and exhibition galleries. The space, which comprises a café and an activity space, was conceptualised as part of a collaboration between both organisations to support the health and well-being of seniors, including those living with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. The activity space features a group activity area, an immersive projection cave, a Quiet Room, and music booths, to encourage group activity during the museum’s programmes for seniors and also enhance their museum-visiting experience.

With Singapore having one of the fastest-ageing populations in the world and an increasing incidence of persons diagnosed with dementia, this timely collaboration seeks to support the growing needs of the growing community, in line with the recently announced 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing.

Chung May Khuen, Director of the National Museum said, “As a people’s museum, we continuously seek to cultivate inclusion and social connectedness among our visitors of diverse backgrounds and age groups, including seniors. We have continually worked with like-minded partners to present meaningful programmes and resources for seniors and their caregivers. To enhance these offerings, we embarked on a series of focus group discussions and engagements with stakeholders, and explored the possibility of a dedicated, museum-based space to provide greater opportunities for cognitive engagement and social interaction amongst seniors. Reunion reflects the museum’s continued commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, and with the Lien Foundation’s support for this project, we are looking forward to partnering our social and health care sector to create a more welcoming environment at the museum for our seniors, who have themselves played an integral role in the stories we present in our galleries.”

A Place for Seniors to Connect

Befitting its name, Reunion provides a space for seniors to build relationships with old and new friends, as well as to relax and be rejuvenated from the day-to-day routine. Seniors can look forward to reconnecting with the past and relating their own stories and experiences with each other through programmes organised in the activity space. They can also enjoy wholesome meals and conversations in the adjacent café space. To participate in the museum’s programmes, seniors and their caregivers may refer to the museum’s website for information and to register for the programmes. 

Designed to resemble a space that feels like our home, Reunion exudes a sense of warmth through the choice of colours in the activity and café spaces as well as the natural lighting that comes in through the windows, which allow people to look out and enjoy the surrounding greenery. The space includes ample seating for seniors, and the choice of rattan weave on the cabinetry and parts of the interior pay homage to our local heritage. Elements of nature are also incorporated into the overall design, featuring the museum’s prized natural history collection on the walls of the activity and the café spaces. Reunion seeks to provide a warm and welcoming space for seniors to enjoy programmes within the museum and encourage them to further explore the museum building and its rich collection that can support their well-being. 

Reunion was designed by the National Museum’s partner and architectural consultant, RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, in consultation with seniors (including seniors with dementia and their caregivers) and partners from the health and social care sectors that include DementiaSG, Apex Harmony Lodge, Peacehaven, and health care professionals (doctors and occupational therapists) from both the private and public sectors. The design team from RSP conducted research to ensure that the space is senior- and dementia-friendly, and together with the museum, engaged stakeholders throughout the design process. The stakeholders helped to choose the activity and dining chairs, colour of the entrance cove of Reunion and the interior, and even the flooring for the space, from a selection identified by RSP.  

Law Yoke Foong, Executive Director, RSP shared, “Designing for seniors with dementia and mild cognitive impairment is often a quite specialised subject, which RSP has experience in through our healthcare projects. The challenge is in applying this experience out of the medical setting and onto the public space, and to also question how we can build this for our families in our own homes. To ensure our design stood up to real-world application, we combined our experience and expertise, and incorporated institutional research together with input gleaned from engagements with professionals and caregivers involved at every stage, from design to construction. The priceless interactions not only resulted in a functional space for the intended users and their programmes, but also truly turned Reunion into a home for all seniors where their insights shined through.”

Read more about it here.

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Experience Reunion at National Museum of Singapore