A new guide, published by the Alzheimer’s Society, provides practical advice to arts organisations seeking to make their buildings and artistic offering more suited to those with dementia.

Woman drumming

NCVO London (CC BY 2.0)

A practical guide for theatres, galleries, museums and concert halls on how to become accessible and inviting for people with dementia and their carers has been published by The Alzheimer’s Society in collaboration with 19 other arts and health organisations. Using a combination of case studies and advice, it outlines the moral, health and wellbeing, artistic and business cases for increasing accessibility, emphasising the rewards of opening up performances to the UK’s 850,000 people living with dementia.

The guide forms part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, launched in 2012, which saw Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society Jeremy Hughes appointed to the ‘Champion Group on the Arts’, which is tasked with raising awareness about the illness and creating dementia-friendly communities.

Arts organisations are encouraged to ask themselves simple questions to determine the extent of their accessibility, such as how people find out about events, and how audiences get to the venue and find their way around it. The guide also offers advice about programming events and activities that are more conducive to people with dementia, such as staging ‘relaxed’ performances with slightly brighter house lights and holding performances at times that are less likely to be attended by young children.

Arts Council England Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette praised the societal benefits of the guide, saying: “There’s an increasing realisation that ‘social prescribing’ can really make a difference, and as part of that, dance companies, museums, theatres and music companies are all looking at how they can enrich the lives of people with dementia… Even some of the smallest changes highlighted in this guide will make a huge difference to those living with dementia and their families and carers.”

Nikki Crowther, Head of Community Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We hope this guide encourages other arts venues to start their dementia friendly journey and that people affected by dementia will urge their local arts venues to make the most of a guide.”