Latest research shows 900 older people in NI care homes benefitted from art during the pandemic

From the Arts Council Northern Ireland:

A research report published today (9 March 2022) by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland reveals findings from an independent evaluation of Round V of the Arts Council’s pioneering Arts and Older People Programme (AOPP). The report covers the time period January – October 2021 and shows that 900 older people in care homes in Northern Ireland benefitted from arts interventions during the pandemic, and the programme helped to alleviate isolation and loneliness, while promoting positive mental health and well-being.

The AOPP is one of the Arts Council’s core National Lottery programme areas and has employed artists and organisations to engage with over 29,000 participants through 196 projects since its inception as a pilot in 2009. The programme aims to increase opportunities for older people to engage in the arts and more recently, has focused support on delivering arts activity within care home settings, working with residents living with dementia and their carers. The programme receives funding from The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Baring Foundation and the Public Health Agency (PHA). The programme has been supported with over £2 million National Lottery funding since it began in 2009.

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, AOPP funded organisations in the most recent programme round, had to radically adapt their engagement strategies to guarantee the safety of participants, care workers and artists whilst still ensuring the delivery of arts activities. Due to the need for social distancing during COVID-19, many of the projects were delivered online via Zoom, which proved to be enormously successful in making the arts accessible to vulnerable people and carers.

Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Programmes Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as help to relieve stress, worries and pain. Thanks to The National Lottery players, the Arts and Older People Programme is providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, promoting positive physical and mental health.

Today’s Evaluation Report demonstrates the positive impacts of the programme during the pandemic, a time when a lot of our older people, and their carers, faced increased isolation as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Thanks to the swift, innovative thinking of those delivering the projects and moving them online, 900 older people across the region were able to access and participate in high-quality arts activities, connect with others and improve their wellbeing at an extremely challenging time.”

The Arts and Older People Round V Evaluation Report also showed that:

  • Twelve, established, projects were funded through round V of the Arts and Older People programme, receiving £109,024 in National Lottery funding, an average award of £8,428 per organisation.
  • Collectively, these organisations engaged with an estimated 900 participants.
  • Music was the primary art form element within eight of the projects delivered.
  • Over half of the projects (55.6%) delivered all or some of their work online using virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom. This move yielded the unanticipated benefit for some projects of making their work available to a greater number of participants than would have been possible in person.
  • Seven projects worked with people aged over 80 years, eight, between 70 and 80 years and six between 50 and 60 years.
  • Observation based evidence demonstrated impact across all domains in the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) ‘Take Five steps to Wellbeing’ including: connecting participants; learning new skills; sharing / giving learning with others; taking time out and taking notice.
  • Project workers were cognisant that they were connecting with socially isolated people and making a tangible difference in people’s lives. Project workers were quoted as saying,
    “… they [the participants] described our sessions as the ‘the highlight of the week’ … Most of the older people we were working with were living alone. Some were living with carers. For some people it was an opportunity to interact with others experiencing similar difficulties.” (AOP Project 1)
    “The participants’ enthusiasm and engagement in the whole project was its biggest success.” (AOP Project 7)
  • Observation of online workshops on reminiscence, storytelling and song writing with carers and with people who have dementia, served to highlight how the arts can promote dignity.
  • The high level of engagement by people with dementia in workshop settings challenges stereotypical notions about capacity of the people affected by the condition.

For more information click here.

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