Emma Nutland, 26 January 2014

- What makes art “dementia friendly”

- Where does it happen?

- Moving away from linear structures and reminiscent models

- How to facilitate being in the moment

Talked about the importance of touch and opportunity as a person with dementia to

give to some one or something else, pet therapy. Often all touch from care workers is

‘practical’- put arm in sleeve, stand up, not necessarily the touch that we all need as

humans. We talked about the experience of bringing a donkey into a care home.

Shifting the energy of care homes and daily routines and listening to what’s in the

room rather than going in with a particular motive or desirable outcome. Looking at

artists such as Steven Anderson who works with Arts in Hospital in Glasgow.

Looking at the differences culturally, here in the UK how to we treat our elderly and

people with cognitive difficulties? How do we support their families and friends in

adapting? What's happening in countries such as China?

Radical ‘care home villages’ in Holland that allow freedom and choice to their

residents. They build a home together that is in line with their previous residences and

find interests and activities that the residents want to do. There is a shop,

hairdressers, cafe all on site and everybody that works there knows the residents well

and also has had specialist training. Very interesting article:


Here in the UK we spoke about our care systems, David Cameron's plans but the very

little action that is happening. In contrast to the care homes in Holland, our care home

staff do not need a standardised training to work with people with dementia, they learn

on the job. The care workers are often over worked, under paid and under staffed but

owners of some care homes are making a killing with the amount they charge. How

has care of the elderly turned into such a business? Where is the person - centred

holistic care and how can art make a difference?

As an artist (EN) that worked as artist in residence at a carehome for 3 months I had

the luxury of time to spend listening, asorbing what was present and make little

differences and responses with the residents. Care workers often don’t get the chance

to have a meaningful exchange.

Festivals to look out for with art about ageing or with the elderly- Illuminate, Capital H

Festival, Health and Wellbeing Week (2-6th June), Art for Ageing

As artists, we have the skills to be able to tap into and tease out the creativeness in

people with dementia, as study’s show that the creative section of the brain often

comes to the forefront when affected with the disease, hence why it should be utilised

and celebrated not oppressed!


The use of music and song in triggering memories but also storing new pieces of

information. What if you could write useful songs to help remember loved ones names

or routines to help you stay independent longer?

We discussed, especially in relation to marital couples, the importance of sharing

activities and new experiences so new memories are made and not also harking back

to another time or how some partners refer to their partner with dementia “someone

other”. There has been choirs where couples go together and art programmes such as

meet me Moma where the Moma is closed off to the general public and instead

couples where one or both have dementia go and explore and discuss the modern art.

Opening up opportunites to see and be with the person and not someone ‘suffering

with dementia’.


Jane Fonda Ted talk about her genration and younger now having these three phases

of life, Childhood, Adulthood, and Retirement and how not to reglect how important to

not neglect that third phase.

Claire from London Bubble talked about projects happening such as Men in Sheds

and The Chicken Coop and how getting people out and responsible for the care or

building of something is vital to keep stimulating.

How not enough theatre and performance experiences are happening and the what

the effects of the visceral responses can be. Who is making theatre or arts

experiences, are there networks? How can carehomes support artists and vice versa.

It may seem quite a scary experience working in a carehome for the first time, are

there artists mentoring or training etc? How can we get more artists to explore the

places that potentially scare them? Isn’t that the best place to take work?!

Theatre Royal at Newcastle this year broadcasted their pantomine to nationwide

hospitals and carehomes- small steps to shifting the energy of routine and lack of

individual tastes. How simple steps like this makes a huge difference, especially to

someone with no family or visitors and bed bound.

Choice being something that seems to get forgotten about when caring or working with

the elderly, especially with dementia. The choice to decide what to do, eat, where,

sleep- how can the theatre we take into care homes respond in the moment, give the

audience a chance to make a difference to the outcome, storytelling with different

pathways, forum theatre, exploring the complexities of opinions in the room.

We talked more about touch and the work of Cath Burningson – Tender Age.


Could we start up skill sharing with care homes and artists in countries like Holland?

Could performance artists such as Adrian Howells and his repotoire of one on ones

like Footwashing for the Sole be taken into carehomes?

How can we get more art on the maps?

Lets keep the conversations going- thanks to everybody that attended and Ellie

Dubois for scribing!

Emma Nutland

[email protected]


elderly, Theatre, dementia, Holland, social engaged practice, care homes, THEATRE,

Care homes, Dementia, theatre, applied theatre

Comments: 2

Deborah Henry-Pollard, 5 May 2015

Hi, I work with a music group, Oxford Concert Party, who have for over 20 years worked with over people and those with

dementia. If you check out their Resources page, there are some reports there of both their work and overviews from the

Baring Foundation of other companies and the approaches they are taking. They have also worked with actors on a

workshop/play project, Memory Exchange, using music, drama and personal items. There is a lot of great work around,

(Sage Gateshead do some wonderful stuff) and more and more evidence of how important arts work is. It is also an area

where there is a great deal of possibility for experimentation and ‘off the wall’ ideas. As always, the problem is money.

Ridiculously, evidence from the US has shown that participation in arts can reduce the use of drugs, thus saving money -

but drugs seem more ‘sensible’ than arts when it comes to allocating funds.

Hope this info is useful.

Deborah Henry-Pollard, 5 May 2015

Sorry - that should have been “Older people and those with dementia”