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Imagining a better future for dementia patients

Academics from the IMH's Dementia Centre are to participate in a prestigious Arts Council-Baring Foundation funded project. The ambitious, multi-partner project will stimulate arts organisations across Nottingham to use high quality arts programmes to enrich the lives of older people in care, change perceptions about care homes and explore how they might fit better into the community.

The innovative project, Imagine, was one of four applications across England to receive the green light. Imagine will introduce arts practices that challenge, engage, stimulate and enable older people in care to have access to a rich cultural life, and will consist of artist residencies, commissions and opportunities to see and participate in regular arts activities and events. 
The project  will balance actual visits with an exploration of streaming and facilitated 'virtual' visits utilising media and technologies. The project will be underpinned with a social dimension to combat the sense of isolation felt by many older people, fostering closer links between care homes and the wider community. It will also explore training, skills development and shared learning – for artists, partners, care staff and volunteers.

Project partners include care home providers (Abbeyfield, Nottinghamshire Hospice, Nottingham City Homes), Nottingham arts organisations (Contemporary, Royal Concert Hall, Playhouse, Lakeside Arts Centre), Nottingham City Council and the University of Nottingham. All partners have strong track records of innovative work with older people and an understanding of the challenges faced by everyone involved.

The IMH will lead on research, evaluation and dissemination of the project, whilst the University of Nottingham's Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) will support the use and development of digital technologies within the programme. The project will draw on the expertise and innovation of the university's internationally renowned IMH and a leading team of academics - Professors Tom Dening and Justine Schneider and Drs Victoria Tischler and Adam Gordon. Recent IMH work includes delivering arts-based interventions to people with dementia; an edited book on mental health in care homes; an audit of health needs in local homes; and an evaluation of 'Singing for the Brain' with 1,109 health care assistants attending 62 participatory workshops, after seeing the performance, 'Inside Out of Mind'.

Professor Dening said: "We believe that the arts can have a huge impact on the lives of older people and those in care are entitled to share the pleasure and benefits great art experiences can bring".

Imagine will engage with 15 care homes, involving around 800 older people, 200 staff, 100 volunteers, 45 partnership members and 2,000 family members during three years. It is envisaged an additional 5,000 people will be engaged through national networks, online resources, training packages and disseminated evaluation.