Adults With Dementia And Mental Health Needs Explore Creativity


Adults with dementia and mental health needs are exploring their creativity and building confidence through a multi-arts programme, creative:engagement.

Designed and delivered by Create, the UK’s leading charity empowering lives through the creative arts, the programme is hosted at Ashurst LLP’s City offices. Ashurst also funds the project and provides volunteer support.

Bringing participants from the South London and Maudsley’s SUCAG group and The Holborn Community Association together with volunteers from Ashurst, the six-weekly workshops at Ashurst’s offices provide an opportunity for the two groups of older adults to collaborate on creative projects and develop shared understanding.

The participants have been working with Create’s professional artists to explore a range of art forms since the programme began in May with sculpture workshops led by visual artist Belle Moore-Benham, following by jewellery-making with designer Deborah Besana. Most recently, the participants worked with photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolrá, and during May they will take part in poetry workshops with writer Carol Topolski. This variety of art forms is enabling the participants to develop a variety of connected artistic and technical skills, boosting their self-esteem and creative thinking.

In a report published in July 2017, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing found that “The arts have a part to play in many aspects of dementia, from delaying its onset and diminishing its severity to improving quality of life for people with dementia and their carers”. The report also found that “People with dementia and their carers prefer ongoing programmes, rather than one-off experiences”. creative:engagement is one such programme.

Alzheimer’s Society recommends that people with dementia take part in arts and culture activities in a group setting, as this “can create a sense of togetherness and belonging” that helps people stay active and fight the isolation that often comes with a dementia diagnosis. creative:engagement offers participants the chance to collaborate creatively with each other and with Ashurst volunteers, encouraging new relationships to develop.

Create’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Nicky Goulder, said: “Collaborative creativity can have a really positive impact on people’s wellbeing, providing a supportive outlet for emotions and a meaningful activity through which people can socialise. We’re delighted to collaborate with Ashurst on creative:engagement, to provide a valuable creative and social outlet for the people taking part in the programme. It’s wonderful to see new friendships and creativity flourish.”

Judith (not her real name), who took part in the jewellery-making workshops, said: “This is the first time I’ve made jewellery so I’m very proud of what I achieved. I liked putting beads together for a necklace. It was nice to exchange views with other people about making jewellery, and it made me feel special when my ideas were listened to. I don’t think these workshops could be improved – everyone is very helpful, encouraging and welcoming.”

A volunteer from Ashurst said: “I really enjoyed connecting with people and having some stimulating conversations. The participants seemed to enjoy meeting new people and having the chance to talk about their lives and experiences. It was a pleasure to volunteer and the participants really seemed to appreciate it.”

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