Coffee, Cake & Culture: Evaluation of an art for health programme for older people in the community

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Abstract

Arts for health initiatives and networks are being developed in a number of countries and an international literature is emerging on the evidence of their benefits to people's health, wellbeing and quality of life. Engagement in cultural and creative arts by older people can increase their morale and self-confidence and provides opportunities for social connection. Museums and galleries are increasingly required to justify their expenditure, reach and impact and some are working in partnership with local councils, hospitals, schools and communities to improve access to their collections. There is a body of literature emerging that describes such initiatives but empirical evidence of their benefits is less developed. This article reports an evaluation of an art for health initiative - Coffee, Cake & Culture organised and delivered by Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum in 2012 for older people living in a care home and a supported living facility. The study has identified the benefits and impacts of the arts for health programme and its feasibility for older people, with or without diagnosed memory loss - dementia, living in a care home or supported living facility and their care staff. The findings demonstrate there were benefits to the older people and their care staff in terms of wellbeing, social engagement, learning, social inclusion and creativity. These benefits were immediate and continued in the short term on their return home. The majority of older people and care staff had not previously been to the art gallery or museum and the programme encouraged creative arts and cultural appreciation which promoted social inclusion, wellbeing and quality of life. The programme is feasible and important lessons were identified for future planning. Further research involving partnerships of researchers, arts for health curators, artists, care staff, older people and their families is warranted.

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