Artlink gives a creative prescription

Artlink workshops offer people with dementia a chance to enjoy art, music, reminiscing and movement
Artlink workshops offer people with dementia a chance to enjoy art, music, reminiscing and movement

People with dementia are invited to take part in a unique new project that uses art, music and movement to help them stay active, get creative and boost their well-being.

Creative Prescription is a tonic that is prescribed by the local charity Artlink Central and, from April, people in Falkirk will be invited to try it.

The group has become more like a meeting of friends

Sarah Pearson

Artlink has a proud track record of working with people in various settings, from prisoners to patients, and has offered its services to people with dementia in hospitals for more than 20 years.

Now, it is taking that experience into the community with Creative Prescription, a series of workshops aimed at people with a diagnosis of dementia who are still living at home in Forth Valley.

A pilot programme, called the Art of Conversation which ran in Stirling and Callendar, was such a success there was little doubt it would be beneficial across Forth Valley.

“One of the unexpected benefits – but a very powerful one – was the way in which carers and family members who came along and engaged in the activities got involved,” said Sarah Pearson, artistic programmer for older people and learning disability with the charity.

“It was wonderful to see people almost rebuilding their relationships – laughing together and also making friends with other families.

“Also, on the pilot programme, we had people who became friends and ended up going salsa dancing together!”

Sarah and the artists who lead the sessions hope the Falkirk project will also challenge the isolation that people with dementia, and their families, can all too often experience.

When asked for feedback on the pilot, one man with dementia said: “The group has become more like a meeting of friends.

“That was a lovely thing to hear,” said Sarah.

The group’s importance to the families was a factor when it came to succesfully applying for grants from Awards for All and the Henry Duncan Awards to expand.

One woman, whose husband took part, said: “As his condition has progressed, he has become less able to initiate a social life on his own so having a group where he can meet people, and to have something to focus on which takes the pressure off having to think of conversation without support – my husband can no longer do this – has been great!”

The artists involved use their experience to involve everyone and make it a very enjoyable experience.

“The artists we work with are genuinely brilliant,” said Sarah.

“There is a specific way of working – it has to be uncluttered and clear and they have to be flexible and communicate well.

“There has to be a ‘peace’ about what’s going on – people feel so relaxed.”

The visual artists try to stimulate the senses, with techniques such as felting and a beautiful watercolour technique which involves the colours bleeding into each other.

They also bring nature into class as often as possible to stimulate the senses.

There is a music strand to the workshops too; this not only involves singing well known songs but recording those who take part in order to create new sounds and musical experiences.

And Movement and Story involves reminiscence, conversation, stories, songs and even film, led by artist Elaine Kordys, who has a background in dance.

“When you pass the group, you’ll often hear hoots of laughter! It’s just joyous,” said Sarah.

Artlink is now keen to hear from anyone with a diagnosis of dementia still living at home in Forth Valley who thinks they might benefit.

The fact that it is held in Camelon Education Centre is itself a bonus, Sarah believes.

“When they come along, they might see other things, such as the cafe or maybe other groups they’d be interested in,” she added.

“People who are supporting someone with dementia are desperate for things to allow them to engage back into the community.”

Creative Prescription will start on April 6 and run weekly until September.

It will be based in Camelon Education Centre, in Abercrombie Street on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am to noon.

To find out more or to refer someone, simply contact Sarah Pearson on 01786 450971 or email sarah@artlinkcentral.org.