Volunteer for the Meet Me at UMMA Memory Loss Program

UMMA seeks volunteers for the Meet Me at UMMA memory loss program, which recently received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

This innovative program provides engaging and enjoyable museum experiences for people living with memory loss and their families and care partners. Museum sessions use sensory techniques, story telling, music and humor in the context of enjoying the museum’s collection.

Applicants with experience caring for people with memory loss including family members, in-home care personnel, social workers, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, and music and art therapists are desired. Individuals with arts background (including writing and performing arts) and interest or experience with people with memory loss are also encouraged to apply.
Volunteers will receive training, participate in mentored learning, and partner with UMMA docents to develop and deliver Meet Me tours. Training and a two-year commitment are required. 

Volunteers need to be available on Saturdays, from April through June 2018, and also for a regular commitment on Tuesdays or Fridays during training, and thereafter in the fall and spring each year.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis beginning November 1, 2017, through January 2, 2018. 

Learn More

The Meet Me at UMMA program is designed to provide engaging and enjoyable museum gallery experiences for adults who are living with various stages of dementia. The program aims to benefit both the individual with memory loss as well as their care partners. The Meet Me at UMMA museum experiences are carefully planned and delivered using a multi-sensory approach, and they seek to offer participants an opportunity to “bring their senses alive” through visual art, often complemented by story-telling, music, movement, and humor.

UMMA’s program was launched in 2009, initially inspired by the Museum of Modern Art’s “Meet Me at MOMA.” UMMA’s program is unique in its approach and reach, and has evolved and grown over time, consistent with UMMA’s mission to broadly serve the community. The current program operates in partnership with three local geriatric care organizations and is staffed by experienced UMMA docents with guidance and assistance provided by UMMA’s Education Department.

UMMA would like to expand and grow the program in a number of important ways. Over time, we hope to increase the number of visitors served and add to the number of partner organizations with whom we work. In doing so, we want to incorporate new perspectives and integrate new research on the role that the arts and the senses play in engaging adults with memory loss.

This desired expansion and innovation will require additional resources. To meet that need, we are seeking individuals from the community who have a connection to and an interest in the topic of memory loss. Recruits to the effort may include care givers, social workers, occupational therapists, arts therapists, medical professionals and others. Those selected will work with UMMA’s experienced docents to create engaging and enjoyable museum visits.

Persons who enjoy and are successful as “Meet Me” volunteers generally:

  • Have an interest in and aptitude for engaging with older people or those living with disabilities;
  • Are comfortable with interactive rather than formal presentations;
  • Can be flexible in response to group and individual reactions/interests;
  • Are comfortable with an orientation toward experiential learning that emphasizes the imagination rather than facts;
  • Embrace a belief in the power and magic of the Arts (visual, musical, theatrical) and a passion to share these with others to have a significant positive impact on their lives.

Meet Me at UMMA serves persons with memory loss along the continuum of the disease, some of whom visit with their specialized day program and others with their specialized residential program. 

Meet Me at UMMA gives tours on Tuesdays and Fridays in two seasons, Spring (roughly late March through early June) and Fall (late September through early December). The Tuesday group gives tours three times/month and serves persons with early as well as those with mid-stage memory loss. The Friday group provides tours twice a month and serves persons from two specialized residential settings whose disease process is further along. Family members are invited to accompany their loved ones to the Friday sessions.

Meet Me at UMMA tours are designed to provide our visitors with a positive, engaging daytime outing. We believe strongly that, when carefully orchestrated, the museum gallery environment can be stimulating and energizing. Our visitors come to the museum, some using walkers or wheelchairs, and progress safely and comfortably through the galleries. 

Meet Me at UMMA presents guided gallery experiences for people with memory loss using a multi-sensory approach that gives guests an opportunity to "bring their senses alive" through visual art. Tours are often complemented by music, movement, storytelling, humor, tactile props and hands-on activities. Groups are small and the focus is on engagement and joy

Training will take place Saturdays (2-4 hours between 10 a.m. and 3 .pm.) and also via observing and helping with three tours on Tuesday or Friday afternoons between April 1 and June 15, 2018

Volunteers in training will join an active, creative learning community committed to providing engaging museum experiences for visitors with memory loss and their care givers and family members. Leaders for training will include Education staff, experienced Meet Me docents, area and national experts. 

Saturday talks and demonstrations by experts will be combined with informal conversations with the Meet Me docents and staff. Saturday classes (five to seven Saturdays between April and June) will be supplemented by three opportunities to observe and help with actual Meet Me gallery tours, beginning a mentored “learning by doing” process that will continue after formal training ends.

Volunteers are asked to commit to working with either the Tuesday or Friday afternoon team. By on-going mentored learning within the team, they will develop knowledge and experience to first assist with tours, and, gradually develop and lead tour segments. The Meet Me program is sufficiently flexible for each person to develop and contribute via their skills and interests without feeling pressure to be an art expert. 

In addition to mentored learning and support from our docents and staff, numerous resources including readings, online articles, and teaching materials will be provided to you. Digital archives of tour outlines will provide easy access to information about specific works of art and engagement strategies.


  • January through March 2018: UMMA will arrange for new volunteers to visit one of our partner programs for a one- to two-hour visit and activity with the people with memory loss served by partner organizations.
  • From April through June 2018, there will be five to seven sessions on Saturdays from between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (two to four hours each). Attendance is required.
  • April through June 2018: In addition to Saturday classes, trainees will be required to observe and help with three tours between April and June 2018.


After June 2018, volunteers are asked to make a two-year commitment.  Specifically, volunteers are expected to participate in at least three tours in the fall and three tours in the Spring season from September 2018 through June 2020.

The role of new volunteers within the Meet Me program will progress and expand as their comfort with visitors and knowledge grows. There will be opportunities to observe tours, to participate in planning them and eventually to share presentations. Mentoring by established docents, one-on-one, will be a key learning method.  Initially, the art portions of tours will be the responsibility of trained docents. However, the Meet Me program is sufficiently flexible for each person to develop and contribute via their skills and interests to the planning and implementation of the program. 

The University of Michigan policy mandates this.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis beginning November 1, 2017, through January 2, 2018.

If you are selected to be interviewed, you will be contacted by a member of our team to schedule a time to meet.

Interested in joining us? Apply today! 

Questions? Contact Briannon English at briannon@umich.edu

National Endowment for the Arts

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