Care homes showcase value of the arts to elderly health and wellbeing reducing stress and boosting confidence

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By Corazon Miller

Elderly residents are receiving the physical and mental benefits of access to the arts world as more care home providers incorporate creativity into their daily timetable.

It is the seventh annual Care Home Open Day tomorrow and rest homes around the country are using it as a way to focus on the role of arts in care.

Bringing art into a care home, or taking residents to the art as part of creative excursions has been bringing smiles to the faces of many, encouraged increased communication and promoted greater social interactions.

Hallmark Care Homes, head of relationship centered care, April Dobson, said creativity played a central part in many of its residences.  “I think the arts brings back magic into people’s lives and gives them an outlet for expression,” she said. “It is also about doing things with other people, it’s an opportunity for social interaction through the arts.”

On a day-to-day basis she said there were craft sessions, that included anything from making and painting bird boxes, to photography and to life-drawing.

Residents also recently contributed to an exhibition at Tate Modern, and were involved in research for a music tertiary project.

“Most people who live in our care homes love to create in some sort of way and should be offered that opportunity,” Dobson said.

She recalled an elderly woman with dementia who normally struggled to communicate respond to a concert pianist playing for them as part of the music project.

“The lady walked up to the piano and put her hands over his hands so she could feel… Eventually she moved around to his side and he shuffled up on the piano seat and she just started pressing the keys.”

Dobson said it was “just beautiful” to see how the music had moved her to communicate in a way that she hadn’t previously.

Several studies have shown the arts have an enormous capacity to positively affect health outcomes. In a study of almost 50,000 people the BBC Arts Creative Test, in partnership with London’s University College London – explored how creative activities helped manage mood and boost wellbeing.

It found creativity served as a good distraction tool to avoid stress, gave us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and helped build up self-esteem and confidence.  Meanwhile, a  2017 report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing noted the arts were helpful in aiding recovery and supported “longer lives, better lived”.

The group said it believed the arts could help “frail and older people stay healthy and independent and enable patients to take a more active role in their own health and care”.

As part of Care Home Open Day many rest homes will be opening their doors to the public and showcasing a number of creative events that residents and carers get up to.

Visitors will be able to look around the thousands of independent care homes, meet the staff, chat to residents and join in the celebrations.

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