Grant for University to find if visual art helps people with dementia

Swansea University’s Centre for Innovative Ageing in the College (CIA) of Human and Health is collaborating in a £1.2 million project from the Connected Communities Programme researching how visual arts can contribute to the health and well-being of people with dementia.

Swansea University’s CIA is to collaborate with other university researchers, community groups and national charities and trusts to explore community health and wellbeing, community engagement and mobilisation.

The Connected Communities Programme is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

This new research, due to start in July, explores how dementia friendly communities might benefit from creative activities. There is evidence to suggest that taking part artistic activities can be beneficial to people with dementia and some studies have observed effects such as reduced agitation or greater lucidity.

This new research is aimed at examining this in greater detail but will also look at how a visual art intervention helps increase communication with others and decrease loneliness for people with dementia. The arts activities will take place in a variety of settings and will include people in hospital, in residential care and in the community.

Professor Vanessa Burholt, who will lead Swansea University’s work on networks and communities said: “We hope that the project will use a range of visual arts to challenge people’s negative attitudes and reconnect people with dementia into their communities. In Swansea, we’ll also be researching how the artists who work on these projects feel about the impact that their work has on people dementia and how they then spread and share ideas about this to their professional networks.  We can then find out if there is any resulting change in attitudes and perceptions about people with dementia.”

Professor Noel Thompson, Pro Vice Chancellor Swansea University, said: “The Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University is renowned for world-leading research that has positive impacts on older people’s lives. I’m delighted with this exciting project that combines strengths in the social sciences, health sciences, arts, psychology, economics, cultural policy and museum studies in addressing dementia, one of the world’s most complex and pressing challenges”.