Dealing with dementia. How arts can help.

“Dealing with dementia. How arts can help.”

Women in Business Magazine – June 2016

Useful information

  • Ageing Artfully: Older People and Professional Participatory Arts in the UK. Report by David Cutler.
    120 case studies of organisations and numerous examples of art forms; especially dance, drama, music, singing and the visual arts. The report looks at the history of the movement and puts it in a policy context. The main benefits of this work, beyond artistic expression are seen as improved physical and mental health and better personal and societal relationships. The report concludes with thirteen recommendations as to how this work can be strengthened. Ageing Artfully has a foreword by Dame Joan Bakewell, the Government’s ‘Voice of Older People’.
  • Remember to Dance: Evaluating the impact of dance activities for people in different stages of dementia. By Dr Trish Vella-Burrows, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.
    A research conducted by Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University and Green Candle Dance Company, demonstrates how dementia focused dance activities improves the physical and mental wellbeing for people with the condition, as well as their carers.
  • Singing and people with Dementia. By Dr Trish Vella-Burrows, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.
    Offers guidance on setting up and running singing groups for people with dementia.
  • Independence and Mental Wellbeing (including social and emotional wellbeing) for older people. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)
    Helps answer the question: “What are the most effective ways to improve or protect the mental wellbeing and/or independence of older people?”
  • Listen to artists Julie Davies and Sue Toft talk on the Kent Creative Live Show about their work with the residents of Cranmer House and Age UK in Canterbury.


Easy tips for art activities 

If you don’t have much free time, you can still have positive and rewarding time with your parents by doing a few things with them. You can take part in activities with them so you help them connect and engage with with you and others.

Being able to play music back is fantastic to trigger happy memories.

  1. Ask your parent to name some of their favourite songs; or their own parents’ favourite songs.
  2. Find them on Youtube using a tablet, laptop or mobile phone.
  3. Play them back to them.
  4. See what happens…
  5. Add them to your ‘Favourites’ so you can play them again
  • Memory Book

Make a memory book by sticking memories on a large notepad, linking to different times and events in their lives.

  1. Talk with your parents about things you know make them happy; their childhood, their hobbies, their travels…
  2. Get them to make notes on tags or labels, print photographs, write poems on cards etc…
  3. Help them stick them into the book.

This will become your favourite book as you will all enjoy looking through.

  • Identity Boxes 

Identity boxes that contain items that represent who we are. The idea was developed by Nicole Brown, based in the idea of Memory boxes, and explained on her website.
Nicole writes ‘Memory boxes’ are used to help elderly remember and remind them of their memories. The identity boxes are more about considering who we are now, what influences our lives and decisions and which roles chronic illness for example plays in our lives. Identity boxes ask for an active engagement with and reflections of who we are and how we would like to be seen.”

  1. Build a box with your parent and decorate it. It can be a shoe box covered with wrapping paper, or newspaper. Do it with them.
  2. Collect objects that you parent like, things they use every day, things that have a meaning.
  3. As you help them choose these objects to put them in the box, they will talk about what is important in their life now. It will tell you something about how they feel right now.

Read more about these on Nicole Brown’s website.