Thanh Sinden shares the learning from a programme of activities for older people and those living with dementia.
ArtsinMind is a programme of activities for older people and those living with dementia who find it difficult to continue accessing arts due to their age or disability. The project was developed by Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage with support from Creative Health CiC and funded through MLA Renaissance, Transforming Adult Social Care and Arts Council England.
The project promotes the use of arts and heritage activities to improve the quality of life of older people who are living with dementia or cognitive difficulties. The aim is to enhance the mental and emotional wellbeing of older people and to improve their engagement with the arts.
ArtsinMind is part of the Arts and Social Care programme and sits within the Education and Outreach team within Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage Service. The project came into being from the learning of previous pilots across the West Midlands creating regional partnerships. As a service Arts & Heritage is committed to developing its engagement with older people and providing quality experiences.
In 2010, Wolverhampton Arts & Heritage in partnership with praxis, set out to demonstrate how arts and museum services can be commissioned to deliver Health and Wellbeing and related services, particularly with regard to dementia support. As a result the ArtsinMind website was developed, which documents and promotes previous work activity and current programmes.
Meet Me & WAG
Meet Me @WAG is a ‘conversation club’ for over 55’s based at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Sessions of between one hour and ninety minutes in length are held where participants discuss a set topic with the aid of objects, photographs and documents either provided by the service or brought in by the participants.
The projected outcome is to generate wellbeing and encourage social interaction. This is particularly effective for those who might otherwise be socially isolated and provides an event to look forward to as well as an opportunity to practise social skills such as turn-taking and active listening. It is hoped that all members of the group, by the end of a session, will have shared memories, stories and reminiscences as well as listened to and enjoyed the reminiscences of others. They leave in good spirits and feeling content, cheerful or even uplifted; one participant at Meet Me @WAG reported that she had felt better for the rest of the day.
This connects to the Arts and Social Care agenda as an example of early intervention; by engaging with people who do not have specific social care needs or diagnoses the service helps to provide a preventative role. If people become ill it is helpful if they are already engaged with the cultural sector and feel ‘at home’ in the public venues. If they become more vulnerable and/or infirm in later years it is hoped that they will still feel they are welcome visitors and are part of the Arts & Heritage ‘family’.
Some of the sessions have been documented by Stephen King, a photographer commissioned by Wolverhampton Arts & Heritage with support from Creative Health CiC. The groups were photographed and also audio-recorded.
An unexpected bonus gained from Meet Me @WAG is that the staff running the sessions also feel their wellbeing has been enhanced. Representing the service at various events around the region staff have been able to explain the benefits of the sessions with real understanding and enthusiasm.
Download the case study to read on:
Age-Friendly Case Study: Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage ArtsinMind (PDF)