Being creative in a group often opens up a strong sense of shared humanity and levels the ground between carer and cared-for. Older people can express themselves and actively share their talents with the group, as can care staff. Activities such as dance that improve mobility can lead to increased physical independence. Beautiful artworks and crafts can be created that serve as a reminder of ability not disability and can be used to brighten up the environment of the care setting. These are just a few examples, but it is easy to see how creative activities open up a new reality that is incompatible with the old paradigm.
A strong commitment to training and supporting care staff in planning and leading activities has led to our successful &#x2018;Creativity in Care Settings&#x2019; course at Truro College running twice a year. This has created a network of
skilled activity leaders across Cornwall. We also provide more informal training and networking opportunities for care staff, for instance our regular &#x2018;Sharing and Learning&#x2019; days which are open to anybody who has taken part in a project or training course.
Four years into the project, we have run projects with over 50 care settings across Cornwall. Many care staff who have taken part in our projects have changed the whole approach to their work, as the manager of one care home said:
&#x201C;The whole ethos of care has improved, new staff are seeing their role far beyond that of personal care and older staff have been delighted in the improved relationships between themselves and the residents, especially those with dementia.&#x201D;
AFHC are now working in partnership with the Primary Care Trust and Adult Social Care to establish meaningful quality of life at the heart of caring for older people and to influence the commissioning agenda.
We hope that in the not-too-distant future, the way older people in our society have been &#x2018;cared for&#x2019; will be looked back upon as a breach of the basic human right to lead a fulfilling and meaningful existence, regardless of age or ability. a
Arts for Health Cornwall and Isles of Scilly recently won a Guardian Public Services Award for their work with Older People in care. For more information about the organisation please visit W: www.artsforhealthcornwall.org.uk
&#x201C;The whole ethos of care has improved, new staff are seeing their role far beyond that of personal care and older staff gave been delighted in the improved relationships between themselves and the residents, especially those with dementia.&#x201D;
In September 2009 the Baring Foundation, an independent funder, announced that our new theme would be core costs grants for professional arts organisations working in a participatory way with older people. We were overwhelmed by applications, receiving almost three times as many as we had under our previous theme. This year we have had to reject at the first stage organisations that we would have wished to fund and will only fund around one in twelve applications. So we certainly chose an area in desperate need for funding but we will also inevitably need to think in future how to ensure support for a greater proportion of applicants.
At the same time we issued a mapping study of work going on in this field in the UK, along with comparisons in Ireland and the USA. Our report, called Ageing Artfully, (available free from the Baring Foundation &#x2013; www.baringfoundation.org.uk
) included over 120 case studies. Our grants round has resulted in at least another 60 organisations being identified.
The benefits of participatory arts are well documented, although, as in so many fields, it is harder to find really rigorous quantitative evidence. Beyond the inherent value of creativity, these benefits can be divided into two inter-related dimensions of health (mental and physical) and relationships at the personal and community level. Dancing obviously includes exercise and singing can be good for both breathing and for the memory. Inter- generational activities often span cultures as well as age groups and time after time, participants will emphasise how arts activities break down social isolation.
Ageing Artfully suggests thirteen key areas for developing this field: research; policy and funding; the scaling up of activity; festivals; local authorities and health trusts; partnerships with older people&#x2019;s organisations; the regulation of care; networking between arts organisations; practice development;
&#x201C;Although there is so much good practice at the local level, this is in the absence of any national policy or activity. None of the Arts Councils have a specific policy for older people &#x2026;&#x201D;
training and standards; major venues; publicity; the leadership of older people; coordination and sector advocacy.
Although there is so much good practice at the local level, this is in the absence of any national policy or activity. None of the Arts Councils have a specific policy for older people and the major national older people&#x2019;s organisations such as Age UK have no policy on the arts, nor can the arts be seen in the Government-wide policy issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, &#x2018;Building a Society for All Ages&#x2019;. We will continue to fund in this area for at least another four years. I would hope that by the end of that time artistic practice will be every bit as vigorous as today and official neglect will be less blatant. a
David Cutler Director The Baring Foundation
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