Arts & Older People Programme: So you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
For ten years, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been developing innovative ways of using the arts to combat poverty, isolation and loneliness amongst our older citizens – factors known to impact on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and even mortality. Following the latest evaluation of the programme ‘A Decade On’, does learning through the arts hold the key to longer, happier, healthier lives?
The Arts & Older People Programme
Overcoming Obstacles to Engagement
We devised a number of solutions, including professional training for artists working with older people (notably with people living with dementia, an area where the arts are proving to be particularly effective) and targeting gaps in existing provision – for example prioritising older men, who are statistically three-times less likely than women to engage with the arts. We involve older people in the planning process to ensure that activities are tailored to their needs. We’ve also adopted a multi-sectoral approach so that we leave a legacy of greater sharing of knowledge and resources, ensuring that effective new partnerships and additional services continue to evolve.
We work with a wide range of delivery partners, care providers, councils, health and care trusts and other related organisations in Northern Ireland. They have all seen their work uplifted and transformed by the creative inspiration of musicians, dancers, artists, circus performers and storytellers.
NI Projects and Results
Over the course of the last decade, the Arts & Older People Programme has supported more than 150 projects across Northern Ireland, engaging more than 28,000 older participants in arts activities ranging from intergenerational storytelling to musical reminiscence, to yarn bombing and even stilt walking! The range of creative activities is as varied, diverse and surprising as the people who are taking part in them. One of the main barriers for older people is stereotyping – they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that isn’t even true for dogs – so with our projects we have deliberately set out to challenge outdated and unhelpful perceptions of older people and what they might be interested in or capable of doing. The result, participants tell us, has been both liberating and empowering.
If you would like to find out more about the Arts & Older People Programme in Northern Ireland and watch short films about our participants, please visit the Arts Council of Northern Ireland website.
A summary of some of the best of the work is to be found in our 2016 publication, ‘Not So Cut Off’.
Lorraine Calderwood leads the Arts & Older People Programme at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The programme is currently focussing on developing work specifically for older people living with dementia, including their families, carers and medical practitioners. Lorraine also leads the successful ‘ARTiculate’ Young People and Wellbeing Arts Programme at the Arts Council.
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