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.
- 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.