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How arts activity can arrest dementia

A pilot study by a London organisation, Arts 4 Dementia (A4D), to be published later this month, has yielded significant indications of ways that artistic activity can help delay and offset the distressing aspects of dementia.


  •  94% of  people with dementia were energised, unstressed, happy and alert for at least 24 hours after an arts session
  • The energising effect lasted for up to a week in 60% of participants with dementia
  •  Visual arts generated the greatest immediate sense of achievement
  • Music and dance (both of which have a physical component) demonstrated a significantly longer energising effect than other art forms
  • 84% of people with dementia recognised that they had learned new skills.
  • _Bisakha & Ken hands_ 131
  • Photo: Bisakha Sarker, artistic director of Chaturangan, shares a moment of movement with participant Ken Honnor in a South Asian dance project at the Bull Theatre in Barnet.. Credit: Simon Richardson.         

A total of 17 projects – in art, music, dance, theatre, poetry, photography and
media – were evaluated. These attracted 209 participants – 128 people with
dementia and 81 carers – and offered 119 workshops. Several people with
dementia took part in multiple projects (one actually attended nine) and some
were not in the early stages; overall,therefore,there were 93 assessments of
people with early dementia, involving 41 different individuals. They were
between 66 and 91 years old, with an average age of 77.
Participants strongly agreed that the course had enhanced their quality of life.
The workshops were the highlight of their week. They valued the inspirational
venue and creative challenge, as well as the collaborative social opportunity,
and felt able to access creative responses. Of those with dementia,
• 99% felt more fulfilled through their creative achievement
• 99% planned to develop their art, as this enriched their lives
• 97% recognised that creative activity overrides memory worries
• 89% claimed to feel more confident
• 84% recognised that they had learned new skills
• 75% felt more energetic and 75% keener to socialise
Carers enjoyed the creative, cultural and social opportunities – some
discovering a new cultural world – and all were happier at their companions’
restored energy, interest and relief of stress.

According to carers, 94% of people with dementia stayed energised, unstressed,
happy and alert overnight, 80% for three days, 60% for a week. Whereas visual
arts generated a personal sense of achievement, participants in music and dance
remained energised longer. Only 7% – whose partners were not in the early
stages – noticed no change, indicating that this dynamic approach is
particularly appropriate for people in the early stages of dementia.



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  1. PK Miller says:

    I saw this w/my own mom. Mom had multi-infarct dementia–due several strokes & ongoing TIAs–”mini strokes.” There was a wonderfully gifted man, Mike, at the area Jewish Community Seniors Program who ran a ceramics class. Many participants had various physical/mental limitations. He made the each of them feel like s/he had done much much more than they had. Even if all they could do was run a paintbrush of glaze over a ceramic piece, it was their project & they took pride in what they did. They felt on top of the world. Mom was much more coherent when she returned from the class. (The socialization was important, too.) Mom had serious physical disabilities that made it difficult for her to get out & socialize) Two of mom’s pieces were buried with her. God bless, Mike, wherever you are out there!

  2. Lebrecht,

    I don’t know in other places, but considering the results it’s seems that we must introduce arts activities to all politicians in South America. ASAP

  3. This looks very interesting although no surprise to those who’ve been with dementia sufferers who have had art or music therapy.

    For anyone who is interested in this kind of work, I attended an absolutely AMAZING seminar on using music to help those with dementia which was run by Music For Life and Wigmore Hall – I think you can see more information at

    An incredible use for music and something we all need to help if possible. In my view its worth every drop of funding such work might receive.

  4. I am looking forward to the publication of this research and thankful for the synopsis/preview. As the population ages, agencies that underwrite grants will better understand the needs and benefits of funding such programs when research such as this demonstrate the efficacy of various therapies.

  5. I have the same experience with my mother, who is ill with Alzheimer’s disease since more than 10 years.
    For this reason I have created a website to help other relatives.
    I am singing German Volkslieder with my mother..
    The whole story and the video you will find on my website:
    (The website is in German/English, but the issue are German Volkslieder)

  6. tony robb says:

    I have been working for the Music For Life organisation in partnership with Wigmore Hall and Dementia UK for the past 15 years. We have done studies with Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority that have absolutely proved the benefits of this type of work. More funding to help improve the quality of life of an ever increasing number of dementia sufferers is vital.

  7. This is an amazing study and all the findings are evident in the documentary film “Still Dreaming”. The film is about a group of elderly entertainment retirees as they mount a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “Still Dreaming” demonstrates the positive power of theater, movement and singing for those with dementia, as we see in many scenes elders with dementia engaging, happy and released from memory worries. Find out more at

  8. Chreanne Montgomery-Smith says:

    Every week over 6000 people with dementia, carers and volunteers in England and Wales meet in “Singing for the Brain” groups sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Society UK . Many others participate in other countries following the model created in 2003 in Newbury Berkshire. The pleasure of creating beauty together sustains people through difficult times bringing friendship and well-being to people whose social lives have contracted through stigma. All the Arts bring vitality to those with long term conditions and bring tremendous savings to society and the NHS.

  9. I am most interested in seeing this publication and how the researchers implemented their use of music, art and dance. Were the interventions provided by music therapists, art therapists and dance therapists? At what time of day were they provided? At what stage of Alzheimer’s were the participants? And, how was the ‘art’ or ‘music’ selected? In order to apply for funding and more important, for us to better understand the neuroscience of creativity, and in particular, the impact of activities such as singing and dance on movement and speech, and recovery of short term memory and plasticity, we need to build on our research base with stringency so we are methodologically informed…Looking forward to seeing the details and hopeful that this research will build upon the numerous studies in the therapeutic creative arts provided in the literature base, particularly within the past 5 years. Please announce when the source article is released. Appreciated!

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