There is a growing evidence base for the positive impact that participatory arts programmes have on emotional wellbeing and health of older people, as indicated by Age UK’s newly published Wellbeing Index.
For the past three years, The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT), one of the UK’s largest care providers for older people, has been working in conjunction with a number of organisations to bring artists from different art forms into their care homes to give their residents the opportunity to get involved in a variety of projects. These have included music, poetry, dance, art and sculpture.
Artists sharing their skills have been supported in many cases by funding from organisations which champion arts for older people, such as the Baring Foundation and the Arts Council.
Victoria Elliot, OSJCT’s Principal Consultant for Innovation says, “We have seen an array of benefits for the people living and working in our care homes at both an individual and a community level. These benefits are often cumulative, and leave a positive legacy that lasts well beyond the arts session itself. As well as the emotional benefits for the people involved, what is also clear are the improved meaningful social contact and friendships that develop between the individuals in the arts groups. These help to reduce the isolation and loss of identity that so often happens in old age and that can be compounded further by a move into a care home. Art has its own intrinsic value, but also has the power to change how people feel about themselves and those they live and work with. We are looking forward to developing our programme of participation in arts further and are currently exploring the possibility of establishing artist “residencies” in some of our care homes”.