Learning music keeps brain healthy in later life

29 Jan 2024

People who play a musical instrument or sing have better brain health as they age, a study by the University of Exeter has found.

Scientists found that among 1,108 participants with an average age of 68, playing a musical instrument was associated with significantly better memory, with keyboard or piano players scoring the highest on average.

Singing in a choir was also found to improve brain health, with researchers suggesting the social aspect of being part of an ensemble may also play a key role. 

Anne Corbett, Professor of Dementia Research at University of Exeter, said: “Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve.

“Although more research is needed to investigate this relationship, our findings indicate that promoting musical education would be a valuable part of public health initiatives to promote a protective lifestyle for brain health, as would encouraging older adults to return to music in later life.

“There is considerable evidence for the benefit of music group activities for individuals with dementia, and this approach could be extended as part of a healthy ageing package for older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and to promote brain health.”

Arts projects in Northern Irleand get £170k boost

24 Oct 2023

Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has announced funding for 22 arts organisations across the country to deliver a series of community-based arts projects benefitting older people. 

The funding, which totals £169,994, is part of the National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme, an initiative funded by The National Lottery and Public Health Agency, which aims to tackle loneliness as well as promote positive mental health and well-being among older people through engagement with the arts.

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Arts Development Officer at the ACNI, said: "Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress. 

"The National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. 

"The arts have a vital role to play in helping our older people find their voice, bring people together and promote positive physical and mental health.”

Cardiff theatre company wins Calouste Gulbenkian Award

23 Mar 2023

Re-Live Cardiff, a theatre company working exclusively with veterans and the elderly, has been selected as the main winner of the annual Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Award for Civic Arts Organisations.

The organisation was awarded £100,000 by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which has been running its award for outstanding community engagement work for three years.

Two further prizes of £25,000 each were awarded to Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast, for its work with asylum seekers and women, and to People United, a Canterbury-based charity working with young refugees.

“The organisations we chose to receive this year’s award stood out for us because of the ways in which they are pioneering and embedding new ways of co-creating with their communities, putting people at the heart of their thinking,” said chair of the panel Baroness Deborah Bull.

Re-Live Cardiff helps veterans, the elderly and people with dementia to write and perform their stories as plays, as well as offering training for health and social care workers.

“We're so thrilled to have this recognition. This work has transformed lives amongst underrepresented communities across Wales,” said Karin Diamond, Re-Live’s Artistic Director.

“Now we have the potential to expand our work, which has already begun to grow internationally, shape policy and improve lives in Wales and beyond,” she added.

Golden Thread Gallery worked with local organisations to produce “Welcome to Belfast” information packs in Arabic and Farsi to help migrant women integrate in Northern Ireland, as well as creating art packs for child refugees.

“We have big plans for the future and will be creating a Process room for communities to engage with our work, as well as developing new connections with schools and groups,” said Sarah McAvera, the gallery’s Deputy Director.

People United’s “Future of Care” programme has collaborated with Kent Refugee Action Network to help young refugees and asylum seekers express themselves through painting.

“Having the resources to continue our collaboration, enabling young refugees and asylum seekers to use art to reflect on and articulate their experiences, is so exciting”, said Janice McGuinness, CEO of People United.

Arts centre launches resource to support people with dementia

23 Jan 2023

An arts activities guide designed for people living with dementia has launched as part of a collaborative initiative in Liverpool.

The resource, called 'Little Golden Moments', has been developed by dementia specialist Belong and Liverpool-based contemporary arts centre Bluecoat to offer a collection of creative pursuits to enhance the wellbeing of those using it.

It brings together an array of one-to-one and group exercises in music and sound, storytelling, movement and dance, and working with clay. 

All the activities have been devised by creatives commissioned by Bluecoat, and piloted by Belong over the past four years as part of an the ongoing research partnership between the organisations called 'Where the Arts Belong'.

Caroline Baker, head of dementia and care quality at Belong, said: "When your loved ones or those in your care live with dementia, it can be difficult to keep them engaged with worthwhile activity. 

"We're pleased that the Bluecoat's work to-date means we can offer this resource to carers everywhere. I'm sure many will recognise the small, special moments they have with those they care for and this will help to bring about more positive experiences."

Tabitha Moses, project facilitator at Bluecoat, added: "We hope Little Golden Moments will inspire creative engagement with people we love and support. Each activity has been tried and tested, both in-person and on a digital screen - all are dementia-friendly and Zoom-friendly. You don't need to have any arts experience, just a willingness to have a go!"

Westminster Council pledges £1.8m funding for arts

02 Dec 2022

Westminster City Council has announced it will set aside £1.8m for arts and culture funding over the next four years.

The council said the money will help fund a range of projects to make culture more accessible to residents and visitors.

It added that it hopes to break down social and economic barriers by extending free cultural opportunities to those facing financial hardship, young people, over-65s, ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those experiencing social isolation.

Within the budget is a new annual Culture and Community Grants Programme, which invites local organisations and schools to bid for up to £10,000 of funding to help deliver community-based projects. 

Tim Roca, Deputy Leader at Westminster Council and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said: “I’m very excited to announce this new cultural budget that will fund a range of projects across Westminster. 

"This new funding will bring culture directly into our communities and provide a boost for Westminster’s thriving arts scene which attracts so many visitors each year."

Arts programmes should offer a range of creative activities

25 Jul 2022

A study on the impacts of a remote arts programme for older adults during the transition out of lockdown offers three key recommendations for other arts organisations.

Inclusivity drive for independent music venues launches

People at a music venue
19 Jul 2022

Independent music venues will be encouraged to form a national network offering daytime programmes of music-based activities to engage with diverse audiences.

Scottish Ballet pilots new care home initiative

27 Jun 2022

A pilot programme called SB Duet will be launched in three Independent Sector Care homes within Inverclyde Health and Care Social Partnership to support the wellbeing of people with reduced mobility.

Scottish Ballet are partnering with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Care Home Collaborative to run the pilot, which will offer care home residents an accessible movement experience that can be done in bed or at the bedside with a carer, visitor or independently. 

The programme package includes two ten-minute films and audio resources, each containing a short excerpt of a Scottish Ballet performance, followed by five minutes of gentle guided movement.  

Dance and movement have been shown to improve physical fitness, cognitive function and quality of life for care home residents.

The programme builds on the neurological programmes and projects run online by Scottish Ballet during lockdown, which demonstrated that people with neurological conditions and reduced mobility were willing and able to take part in gentle guided exercise.

“Research suggests that dance-based interventions are effective in improving both the physical and mental well-being of older adults,” said Pooja Gupta, Care Home Collaborative AHP Care About Physical Activity Lead.

“This resource will not only support physical activity, but also promote mental well-being and help people do what matters to them the most.”

New music app to help dementia patients

14 Jun 2022

A music app designed to support care of people affected by dementia has been launched by music wellness technology firm Music Health.

The app, called Vera, analyses the age of the person with dementia, where they grew up and how they react to music, to create a personalised playlist designed to help manage the Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD).

More than 80% of people living with dementia experience BPSD and personally significant music has been found to decrease the effects.

Vera features music owned by Universal Music, after the industry giant signed a partnership with Music Health to include the label’s entire global music catalogue.

Music Health Co-Founder Stephen Hunt likened the app to a “music detective”.

“It seeks out tunes that they used to love a long time ago but may have forgotten about, which their carers may have never heard of, and their families may not even know.”

Rural art projects in Northern Ireland get £1.5m boost

Young people taking part in workshops run by arts organisation Glasgowbury
13 Jun 2022

New art fund launches to address needs of local rural communities as they emerge from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Arts Council Northern Ireland to fund support for older people

24 May 2022

Funding applications are now open for community groups, arts organisations and councils across Northern Ireland who wish to take part in the Arts and Older People Programme.

Established in 2010 by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the programme challenges perceptions of what it means to be an older person. It is designed to tackle loneliness and promote positive mental health among older people through the arts.

The latest round of the programme, in partnership with the National Lottery, will award £200,000 of funding in grants of up to £10,000 to support projects benefitting older people.

“We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as help to relieve stress, loneliness, worries and pain,” said Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Programmes Officer of Arts Council of Northern Ireland. 

She said that recent rounds of the programme have “focused on delivering arts activity within care home settings, working with residents living with dementia and their carers,” and encouraged organisations across the region to apply.

To date, the programme has provided £2m of funding to community organisations and voluntary groups, resulting in the delivery of over 200 arts projects.

Applications for this latest round of funding will close on 7 July.

National Day of Arts in Care Homes set for September

17 May 2022

This year’s National Day of Arts in Care Homes will take place on 24 September, The National Activity Providers Association (NAPA) has confirmed.

The annual event, now in its fourth year, celebrates using arts and creativity to support health and wellbeing in care settings.

A week of online sessions will begin on 19 September, focused on creating meaningful arts engagement for people living with dementia.

This year’s edition will widen the conversation beyond the UK, with arts projects from partners in Canada, Mexico and France forming part of a Care Home Twinning project, developed in response to a consultation with the care sector last year.

NAPA is calling for arts organisations to get involved by registering to host an event on the event's website

A South Asian counter narrative

portrait of Roohia Syed-Ahmed
04 May 2022

New research on South Asian arts and ageing offers insights and inspiration to a new generation, write Elizabeth Lynch and Arti Prashar.

Music has ‘critical role’ to play in reimaging healthcare 

18 Apr 2022

Recommendations in a new study include a Power of Music Commissioner, a cross-governmental taskforce and music education modules for healthcare workers.

Older people: culture, community, connection

23 Mar 2022

What’s the impact of cultural participation in later life, and how do we capture its value? Helen Manchester explores what the research tells us. 

NI care home project reached 900 people

09 Mar 2022

900 older people benefitted from an Arts Council of Northern Ireland programme in care homes last year.

The funder reports the fifth iteration of its scheme helped reduce isolation and loneliness and promote mental wellbeing. About half of the programme's projects delivered at least some of their work online, making it more widely available than it had been previously.

First piloted in 2009, it is a core National Lottery-funded programme worth £109,000 in 2021 and more than £2m over its lifespan.

"We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as help to relieve stress, worries and pain," Arts Programme Officer Lorraine Calderwood said.

An evaluation report this week demonstrates the scheme's positive effects and the "swift, innovative thinking" of those who delivered it, Calderwood added.


Bluecoat recognised for dementia arts project

09 Mar 2022

Liverpool arts centre Bluecoat has been recognised for a partnership that delivered arts sessions via video call during the lockdowns.

Bluecoat and Belong, a dementia care provider, won the Creative Arts Award at the Third Sector Care Awards 2022. Their lauded project enhanced participant's cognitive capacity and increased their sense of community.

Where the Arts Belong has run since 2019, but participation was widened during the pandemic. Artists worked with residents of Belong villages to explore storytelling, sculpture, dance and sound.

"It really is a win for all our customers and Bluecoat’s commissioned artists," Belong Interim Chief Executive Stacey McCann said.

Where the Arts Belong exhibition will open at Bluecoat later this month.

Project a blueprint for remote arts with older people

13 Dec 2021

Group phone calls, radio and the postal system were used to keep participants connected during lockdown.

Older women dancing

a woman dancing
26 Oct 2021

What is it like to perform as an older woman in an industry obsessed with youth? Sandy Cuthbert shares her experience of returning to the stage with ‘Epilogue’.

Five-year grant for creative ageing programme

07 Oct 2021

Newbury's Corn Exchange has received funding to begin the next stage of a legacy creative ageing programme.

A new team dedicated to this work has been appointed on the back of the £339,000 Lottery grant to lead engagement with older people, especially those who are rurally based and socially isolated.

The first stage of Ageing Creatively ran from 2016 to 2019. This second stage will involve a range of Covid-safe singing, writing, dance, crafts and exercise workshops, as well as a Touch to See group for the visually impaired.

Engagement Manager Hannah Elder said the programme is varied, responsive and provides a noticeable service to its community.

"We see the smiles in our Memory Cafe morning and the concentration on the faces of those attending Afternoon Art.

"We hope to see this impact continue for our ageing community over the next five years, and to play a real part locally in championing arts for health and well-being among our elders."


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