Research has proven that art therapy can be beneficial for people living with dementia. Art therapies engage attention, provide pleasure and may improve symptoms such as anxiety and apathy.
Created pieces of art can also be helpful in gaining an understanding as to how the person with dementia is feeling. Art can allow people with dementia an outlet that they may not otherwise have – for instance, if there are speech or language problems.
A group activity – such as writing poetry together – may bring communication and social benefits purely through the social interactions.
Participatory arts can help support relationships between the person with dementia and their carer. It can also foster a better sense of community.
Attending a poetry workshop
Arts 4 Dementia is working to empower and inspire people with early-stage dementia and their carers. By collaborating with arts venues, the charity aims to provide arts stimulation within communities across the UK.
Recently, Arts 4 Dementia held a pilot programme dedicated to poetry. Over a short series of weeks, eight workshops took place at the National Poetry Library in London’s Southbank Centre.
The sessions were led by two award-winning poets, Nick Makoha and Rachel Long. With the help of dedicated staff and volunteers, people with dementia explored poetry and creative writing in an inclusive, non-elitist way.
At the end of the series of workshops, participants were given a personal folder of their work to take home with them and add to.
We spoke with Nigel Franklin, Arts 4 Dementia’s CEO and a Dementia Friend, about the benefits of this programme and others planned for the future.
People with dementia don’t need to be given easy things to do – or worse, be treated like children!
At Arts 4 Dementia, we set the bar high. We engage the best workshop leaders we can in the most inspirational venues. We also use the best materials we can – and we see people blown away by their own creativity.
Our participants have early-stage dementia, so while short-term memory may be diminished, many skills can be retained. They are welcome to read poetry (at their own pace) or ask their companion to read and perhaps write what they have created.
We give participants time to answer – we don’t answer for them – and above all, we show respect and we’re never patronising.
The importance of poetry
Poetry allows freedom of expression and can add warmth and depth to what may start as prose.
Through poetry, participants access certain images or memories from their lives, and build these fragments together. Older people living with dementia often learnt poems off by heart as a child, and many of these poems are still accessible.
An excerpt from a poem written by the group
Blue mood bruises toxic clouds
beads sky watch face my
t’shirt Veronica’s dress cashmere
jumper ink mood sea moon bright
blue shelves that were meant for
the shed blue bathroom tiles glass
bowl filled with bottles of lavender
Windowlene the Piccadilly Line my brother’s
eyes letter from my bank Matisse’s
nudes Bobby in blue veins busy killing
bluebottles icon hair bicycle man’s shirt…
- Register for Arts 4 Dementia’s ballet workshop at the Royal Opera House, starting Friday 5 October 2018. Find out more by calling 020 7239 4954.