Arts in Care programme was a care home success 

A programme that placed professional artists in older people’s care homes in Scotland for a series of regular creative activities was a positive experience for residents, staff and the artists themselves, a report has found.   

From poetry reading and writing to pottery and textiles, and from music making and dance to photography, Arts in Care saw older people across Scotland take part in a rich array of creative activities last summer.  A collaboration between Luminate, the Care Inspectorate and Creative Scotland with support from the Baring Foundation, the Arts in Care programme launched in 2019 and aimed to support highly skilled artists to work with older people living in care homes.   

The artists worked in different artforms including visual arts, creative writing, dance and music, and all took part in an initial training programme that supported them to work in a person-centred way with older people living in care homes, many of whom live with dementia and other conditions.   

The onset of Covid 19 paused the project, but in 2022 the second phase began, placing artists in 25 care homes across the length and breadth of Scotland.  The homes were keen to bring quality, creative art sessions into their daily routines, and to offer a joyful experience to residents as Covid restrictions on care homes eased. 

Research Scotland carried out an independent evaluation of the project, and their report has been published today.  The research found that older people enjoyed the creative activities and looked forward to them.  Working closely with an artist, even when using unfamiliar artforms, was often a stimulus for further conversation or sparking memories.  For the artists, the importance of the training beforehand was clear, as was the vital support of care home staff.   

Care home staff felt that the Arts in Care project had an impact on residents by giving them new things to do, and observed that many residents became calmer, spent more time interacting with other residents, increased their confidence and self-esteem and improved their dexterity, strength, balance and movement.  

Luminate Director, Anne Gallacher, said: 

“Luminate’s artist-led work with older people living in care homes is an incredibly important and inspiring area of our programme. The Arts in Care project – and the involvement of Research Scotland – enabled us to explore in some depth what is needed to ensure the success of this kind of project. The importance of collaboration between the arts and care sectors is clear, as is the need for training for artists, but above all the positive impact that creativity can have on older people’s lives springs out from the pages.  The connections and relationships that developed during the project, the sense of achievement that so many older people experienced, and the sheer pleasure involved in creating something – whether it’s a pot, or piece of music or a photograph – are all very clear.  Creativity in care homes matters, and this report shows that.” 

Head of Improvement Support at the Care Inspectorate, Craig Morris, said:  

“This inspiring programme made a tremendous difference to the lives of everyone involved. Working in collaboration with our partners, the programme showed that taking part in different types of arts activities can have a positive impact on older people experiencing care. 

“This report provides evidence that as a result of the programme, care staff are more empowered and confident to deliver arts sessions. The benefits of that can be immediate and support wellbeing for staff as well as for those experiencing care. The Care Inspectorate is proud to have been part of this work.” 

Equalities and Diversity Officer at Creative Scotland, Graham Reid, said:  

“It is highly encouraging to see the positive impacts of the work quantified in this new report. The benefits of the arts on mental health and wellbeing are well known, and it is wonderful that these activities were able to bring joy and creativity to care home settings after the restrictions of the pandemic. The learning and development for artists will also bring real benefits for future work in care settings. The positive partnerships between the organisations involved are evident in this report, and we hope that these links can continue to grow as this important work develops further.” 

Baring Foundation Director, David Cutler, said: 

“Care homes are part of the community and mustn’t be forgotten by arts funders. Creative activity is an essential part of making life enjoyable and purposeful for residents. This grant has shown that professional artists can bring joy and beauty to everyone there.” 

Research Scotland Director, Katy MacMillan, said:  

“The Arts in Care project brought joy and new experiences to care home residents. The activities stimulated conversation and memories, created a calm and relaxed atmosphere and built a sense of pride. The project also built the skills and knowledge of artists, impacting positively on their practice. It was a privilege to talk to everyone involved about their experiences.”