The positive impact of arts on older people was a new and under-researched field when we launched our programme of Fellowships on Creative Ageing, in 2010. We realised that it could be kick-started with insights from successful initiatives overseas, and over five years we created a cohort of 47 Fellows to gather global insights and develop UK practice in this area.
This programme was run in partnership with The Baring Foundation, a leading funder of arts projects for older people, who had seen its potential. In working together to explore international best practice in the area, this new therapeutic idea was transformed into a well-established professional field - in which the UK is now a global leader.
Creative arts activities provide older adults with multiple benefits, including enhanced cognitive function. However, statistics show that individuals over the age of 65 are less likely to engage in the arts than at any other age, due to personal and societal barriers.
Across our five-year programme, 47 Churchill Fellows visited 22 countries, exploring best practice on using the arts to engage with older people, improve their health and wellbeing, and build community. In 2017 their findings and recommendations were gathered into a ground-breaking report, Growing the Creative Ageing Movement: International Lessons for the UK , written by Fellow Alice Thwaite and launched at an International Conference on Culture, Health and Wellbeing in Bristol. In working together with Fellows and our partner to implement international best practice in this issue, we have helped to transform this new therapeutic idea into a well-established professional field, in which the UK is now a global leader.
The Baring Foundation Director David Cutler commented: “Our Partnership with the Churchill Fellowship has been essential in placing the UK at the cutting edge of good practice on arts and older people.”
Fellows in this programme have become leading practitioners in the field, making a real impact across communities. Here are some examples of their work:
- Theatre Curator Nicky Taylor (CF 2014) devised and launched Every Third Minute, a festival of theatre, dementia and hope, at Leeds Playhouse, involving people with dementia co-curating and programming the festival. More than 7,500 people attended events over seven weeks and the festival won a National Dementia Care Award.
- Arts Director Sylvie Fourcin (CF 2014) was awarded £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund for a project offering arts for older people in Leeds. This led to a book and a film and, in 2019, she was commissioned by Leeds adult social care services to extend the project across three residential care homes.
- Artistic Director Kerry Rooney (CF 2014) set up a year-round programme of arts for older people at his arts centre, Kaleidoscope, in Northern Ireland. The Imagine Arts Centre, created in 2015, enables more than 200 participants aged over 60 to take part in weekly arts and creativity classes. An extension of the programme, Imagine Outreach, takes these activities into new settings such as care homes. In 2016 Kerry was awarded an MBE for his services to older people and drama in Northern Ireland.
- Dance artist Filipa Pereira-Stubbs (CF 2014) led initiatives to increase access to art for older people in Cambridge. This included securing funding from the Dunhill Medical Trust to develop and embed a dance programme for older people in Cambridge University Hospitals, working with 6,500 older patients over a two-year period. Additionally she developed a project which gave older people who might not normally have access to local cultural heritage, the chance to develop creative work in new settings including the Fitzwilliam Museum.