Dementia Painting-Submitted

Older people living with dementia are benefiting as they “live in the moment”  by getting up close and personal with paint on canvas.

Over the past three months the communal lounge at Ashfield Court care home in England’s Tyne and Wear, has been transformed into a den of creativity.

Supported by staff and the Gateshead charity for seniors called Equal Arts, residents in their 80s and 90s are exploring their creativity with watercolors, oils, and new brush techniques—without a need to focus on reminiscence.

In recognition of their achievements, a touring exhibition of their work, entitled Making a Mark, will open this Monday with the artists in attendance, and run through September 16 at the Oxford Centre in Longbenton.

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It’s an opportunity for 80-year-old Lily Turner, 92-year-old Ellen Stocker and the rest of the group to share their artwork with their community for the first time.

“Residents really get a lot from these sessions,” said Karen Oliver, activities coordinator at the Akari Care home. “They get to meet someone new, and that’s important as a lot of residents don’t have many, if any, visitors.”

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“The visual arts sessions have helped people to communicate with staff and each other. You can see residents making connections, about the past, about their work, and with each other.”

Equal Arts artist Betty Hill who has led the sessions, says, “Seeing their work displayed to the public really validates for residents what they’ve been doing and champions the notion of themselves as artists.

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Hen Power

Henpower chickens with seniors

Another part of the Equal Arts program at the care home in North Tyneside is called HenPower. The innovative project introduces the activity of hen-keeping, which, like the art program, reduces depression and loneliness, and improves people’s well being.

“It is a fantastic opportunity and has also inspired care staff on creative ways artwork can be displayed in their venues as a real feature residents can take pride in.”

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Awarded Lottery funding of £1m in 2013, the HenPower Arts project piloted in Gateshead has now rolled out to more than 30 care settings in the North East and across the UK.

(WATCH the videos on the Arts and Hen projects below)

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