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CREATIVE AGEING NOTEBOOK
Issue 1 
APRIL 2019 
Creative Ageing Notebook 

Welcome to the first edition of the Arts Mid North Coast Creative Ageing Notebook. These newsletters collate the latest key research and articles from around the world that highlight the increasingly important connection between Arts and Health and how it can benefit those aged 60 and over. Links are provided to the full articles.
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Montreal Museum Partners with Doctors to Prescribe Art

A Canadian doctors organisation and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) are partnering to allow physicians to write prescriptions for free museum and gallery visits.

The museum says patients will be able to have a relaxing, revitalising experience, a moment of respite browsing their collection. Nathalie Bondil, the museum's director general, told the BBC that the  beautiful, inspiring space of a museum can boost mood, improve wellbeing, and give patients a chance to explore experiences and senses outside of their illness.

Dr Hélène Boyer, with the Médecins francophones du Canada, said there is a growing body of research that suggests contact with art has a positive impact on people's health. "I am confident that my patients will be delighted to visit the museum to ease their suffering, without any side effects", she said.

Doctors can now prescribe the visits to help address both the physical and mental ailments of their patients. The museum also offers art therapy programmes, recently hired an in-house art therapist, and is participating in clinical studies looking at the impact of museum visits on people with various mental and physical health problems, from eating disorders to breast cancer. The project launched in November 2018.

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The Arts -  A Shadow Health Service

The UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that doctors should also be “prescribing dance classes and trips to concert halls” and set out plans to make this “social prescribing” a reality.

In 2017, the UK government published a report on the compelling case of how creative practices can transform health and well-being. Compelling new evidence emerged in the group drumming project, which found that it can reduce depression and anxiety and improve social resilience in mental health service users.

In the UK, like most countries, there are ever-looming spending cuts within the arts. Paul Crawford, from the University of Nottingham, believes it’s time for governments to take the arts and humanities more seriously as a cost effective, national asset that impact on the health and well-being of a nation.

Crawford asks “why shouldn’t governments strive towards a National Health Humanities Service that works alongside health services, helping to unblock queues to see GPs, complementing traditional medical interventions, and transforming care environments in hospitals, the community or people’s homes? Why leave the arts and humanities on the fringe – as merely ornamental or decorative? They deserve more than being left on a funding drip-feed

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Art Therapy for Dementia Patients 

Art therapy can help develop areas of the brain that have previously been “untapped,” working to emphasise the abilities that an individual still has, and improve concentration. 

The film "I Remember Better When I Paint” focuses on Alzheimer’s patients and their progress as they are introduced to the world of creative arts. The film brings to light the impact creative arts can have on those who seem otherwise disconnected from the world, and how powerful the mind can still be.

One story follows an elderly man who, when asked to draw Honolulu, drew a warship with “Destroyer” on its bow. Most of us who do not suffer from dementia would probably draw a picture of the beach depicting beautiful sand surrounded by the ocean and perhaps some palm trees. In the case of this elderly man, 'Honolulu' evoked clear memories of his days serving his country during the war.

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Trailer to the documentary "I Remember Better When I Paint" narrated by Olivia de Havilland about the many benefits of arts for people with Alzheimer's.
Art’s Therapeutic Effect on Alzheimer’s Patients
For those caring for patients with Alzheimer’s, the effects of art therapy workshops can be transformative.

London charity Arts 4 Dementia was founded in 2011 by art historian Veronica Franklin Gould. Arts 4 Dementia organises workshops at arts institutions for people affected by dementia, at arts institutions. According to the organisation’s chief executive, Nigel Franklin, workshops have been held at many galleries around London. A recent printmaking workshop at London’s William Morris Gallery invited participants to explore different printmaking techniques. “We deliver workshops for people with early-stage dementia, as well as spouse, carer, or friend,” he says. “It improves people’s self-worth, and we believe people should really go for it.

He says the aim of these workshops is to “get people to live better and longer at home,” to delay a need to move into a care home. “People should be engaging rather than feeling as though they are observing.”

By working with gallery education teams, Franklin says the charity can train gallery and museum staff to hold similar workshops in the future. “Our workshops are centered on the person, we ask workshop leaders to focus on who people are,” he says. “To ask what people did in their careers, their interests, really working with the person. Trainers also get to understand the different kinds of dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

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Playlist for Life - Music & Dementia 

Playlist for Life is a UK music and dementia charity. They use the music of a person’s life to keep them connected to themselves and their loved ones throughout their dementia journey.

We have probably all experienced music which gives us 'that flashback feeling’; when a certain song takes us back to a person, place or time whenever we hear it. That feeling is a sign that the music we are listening to is particularly deeply connected to our memories and emotions. For people with dementia it can be a lifeline.

When you listen to music, your brain lights up like a fireworks display. If parts of your brain are damaged, the music can still reach those other parts. The results of that can be astonishing. Music can:

  • Bring back feelings, memories and sometimes even abilities thought lost
  • Reduce the use of heavy drugs and restraints
  • Manage mood and emotions
  • Strength relationships, reconnect families and support new connections

Personal playlists are a cheap, simple and powerful way to harness the power of music to make living with dementia easier and happier.

Playlist for Life is also about creating personal connections. Helping someone to make a playlist brings people together and fosters understanding. It empowers family carers and ensures professional care is more person-centred.

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Parkinson’s and Dance

There’s an increasing appetite for dance these days and the broad ways it benefits our health and wellbeing. One group that now attaches particular value to dance is that of people living with Parkinson’s.

Three years ago, the Dance for Parkinson’s Partnership listed 20 UK classes but now there are about 70. The English National Ballet also run a Parkinson’s programme. Initial research with Dr Sara Houston from the University of Roehampton showed a series of 12 weekly dance classes improved balance and stability.

And a new study led by Dr Judith Bek at Manchester University’s Body, Eyes and Movement Laboratories suggests dance classes can help people with Parkinson’s to tackle everyday domestic tasks more effectively. Her project – collaborating with ENB, Manchester Metropolitan University and dance social enterprise Equilibrium – used ballet and classical Indian dance. Some participants reported that Indian hand gestures had allowed them to do previously impossible practical tasks, such as opening jars and reaching for objects.

UK Dancer and choreographer, Melanie Brierley, has been working with Parkinson’s patients for 10years. She runs a Flow and Connect class which is reconnecting people to their own bodies.

Whether it is ballet, contemporary or traditional Indian dance, classes appear to have similar effects. Many participants at Brierley’s class arrived supported by sticks and walking frames. After an hour’s dance class, all were moving more fluently, one woman who arrived in a wheelchair left the room pushing it.


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Don't Forget the Value of the Arts When Measuring Our Wellbeing

In an opinion piece first published in Wellington’s Dominion Post, 29 November 2018, Neil Plimmer, a Board Member of the New Zealand Arts Foundation, states that if New Zealand is to flourish as a society so too must its arts. 

He recognises that New Zealand is entering an age of wellbeing and developing policy for this new age and the next budget will reflect this. It means the success of NZ society will not be judged solely on GDP and economic growth, but on the wellbeing of its society. He then questions how wellbeing can be measured?

Firstly he believes there is a need to establish the components of wellbeing. The Treasury as part of a ‘Living Framework’ lists 4 dimensions and the OECD’s ‘Better Life Index’  has 11 including income, housing, social, education and skills. He suggests that maybe 6 top components could be established and policies built around these. These could then be measured in relation to outcomes and the success of inputs.

In assessing wellbeing Plimmer feels the importance of the arts must be addressed. His belief is that shared activities and experiences across the arts promote cohesive communities and enrich human experience. He also hopes that government investment in wellbeing will recognise the multiple roles the arts can play in this. For example, art activities can serve many purposes such as stimulating our imagination, foster jobs, skills and creativity and improve our urban environment.

Various arts can also improve health by helping people recovery from illness and enhance mental healthcare. Music has been shown to stave off or slow dementia. As a Quebec project found art therapy is good for your physical health. Different art forms have also helped prisoners rehabilitate.

With this in mind he stresses that the value of the arts must not be forgotten when developing government policies for wellbeing and measuring these.

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