Irene John’s Dancing With Dementia


My Ipoh had a great opportunity to visit the much viraled “Celebrating Irene John’s Dancing with Dementia” art festival in conjunction with her 80th birthday. The book Dancing with Dementia by Christine Bryden, a dementia patient who advocates for living positively with dementia, served as the inspiration for the festival’s name.

The main goals of this event, which took place from June 23 to June 26, were to raise public awareness about dementia and highlight the therapeutic value of art in dementia care. There were several workshops, mostly participated by dementia patients, ranging from pottery making to painting, led by Ms. Ng Sook Peng (clay artist) and Ms. Alice Ng (art facilitator).

We were greeted warmly by Mr. Peter Pak, who is also Ms. Irene John’s husband, and he briefly explained the event while emphasising the benefits of arts-based therapies. We were then led inside the gallery where we met Ms. Irene. Despite having been on her feet all day, she took the time to personally show us around. Her enthusiasm and commitment were evident as she energetically described the creation of each of her works of art. Many pieces of artwork were both aesthetically arresting and had a profound emotional impact that they simply left us awestruck. We were definitely astounded by her work! 

We had another chance of meeting Mr. Peter, where he posed two important questions to us, “Why nobody talks about Dementia?” and why there is no awareness created for Dementia? That struck a chord as we weren’t able to answer him. Maybe our readers can tell us why nobody talks about Dementia.

He also told us that he envisions a Dementia Café: a place where caregivers and care recipients can socialize, connect, have activities to create awareness on dementia. Ideally the venue should have a nostalgic atmosphere and easy access.

Mr. Peter and Ms. Irene were delighted with the turnout and the encouragement from the public and they would like to express their appreciation to everybody who came to support them.

My Ipoh applauds the wonderful efforts by Mr. Peter, Ms. Irene and all the wonderful souls involved in making this event a success.

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