Four projects will provide greater access to the arts for people living in residential and nursing homes.

An elderly lady paints during an arts workshop
'Remember Me', an annual project from The Courtyard's Art and Older People's programme

The Courtyard

An arts programme that aims to reach the 400k older people currently living in residential homes is to be implemented by four successful applicants. The £1m Arts and Older People in Care programme, jointly funded by Arts Council England and the Baring Foundation, wants to build on the existing examples of good practice where artists and arts and cultural organisations are providing a bridge between older people and the wider community.

The successful applicants are Arts for Health Cornwall & Scilly Isles (AHFC), The Courtyard in the West Midlands, ‘We do’ in West Yorkshire and Abbeyfield in Nottingham. The Baring Foundation’s grant-making programme exists to improve the quality of life of people experiencing disadvantage and discrimination. Director David Cutler said: “…there is a wealth of good practice among arts organisations working in care homes, but this needs to be scaled up massively. These grants are an important step in that direction.”

Projects to be delivered by the successful organisations include a three-year programme called ‘Home Service’, a collaboration between residential care providers and major arts organisations in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, which will explore how creative arts can give a voice to older people in residential settings. Jayne Howard, Director of AHFC, said: “We believe that older people living in care homes have the right to engage with the arts and cultural opportunities on offer to the rest of the community and this funding provides a fantastic opportunity to see that happen here in the south west”. The West Yorkshire membership scheme ‘We do’ will launch a project called @home, a club for residential and nursing homes and arts and cultural providers offering a programme of arts events in care homes and at cultural venues; and the Abbeyfield Society, a charity that provides housing, support and care for older people, plans to develop an arts programme called ‘Imagine’, which will enable arts access for those in residential care in the East Midlands. The Courtyard will use the £250k grant in partnership with Shaw Health Care to set up participatory arts projects in 32 of Shaw’s care homes. Earlier this year The Courtyard became the first arts venue to join the Dementia Action Alliance, establishing the centre as a leader in the development of dementia friendly arts venues.

Research shows that that the arts can have a positive impact on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of older people, with participatory art shown to improve the quality of life for those suffering with dementia and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. However, results from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Taking Part’ surveys have shown that, despite this evidence, people aged 75 or over have a much lower engagement in the arts than other age groups. Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, said: “There are currently over 400k older people in residential homes and many are often excluded from the opportunities that taking part in arts and cultural experiences bring. There is a real potential to bring about a step change in the quantity and quality of arts activity that older people in residential care have access to across England and this programme is a great start.”

Elizabeth Hunt