Art workshops help people with dementia

A project using art to stimulate people with dementia is being celebrated with an exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre.

The Galleries Engaging with Older People project, run by Engage Cymru, aimed to bring enjoyable experiences to socially-isolated older people while also conducting research into how art can be used to engage them.

The project first used visits to art galleries, including Rhyl Library and Art Gallery and Ruthin Craft Centre, as an inspiration.

Angela Rogers, the project co-ordinator, said: “Our aim is to help people with issues like social isolation and lack of confidence by increasing their motivation and improving well-being.

“The art galleries have been used as a hub, as neutral ground to bring people together.

“Then we’ve used the exhibitions in the gallery as an inspiration and focus for the work of the participants.”

Art workshop

During one workshop, they discovered that one of the people taking part used to be an architect’s draughtsman.

“His drawings were so precise,” said Ms Rogers. “Creating them managed to stimulate conversation about what he used to do for a living.”

Local artist Jan Gardner, who lives in Flintshire, then held workshops with the older people, as well as their families and carers.

Ms Gardner said: “It was such an uplifting experience, this group has been really rewarding to work with.

“With people with dementia we’ve had an interesting response and it’s been an eye-opener for people who didn’t realise these things were possible.

“I like to work with people who don’t have access to the art world and to encourage them to go through a door they would never have gone through otherwise.”

The older people and their families who took part have gone from visiting galleries to having their own work exhibited and it can be seen in the Project Room of Ruthin Craft Centre between 26 October – 30 November.

The research report will be available in December 2010.

Working with Engage Cymru on the project were Denbighshire County Council Arts Service, Social Services and Housing, funded by Arts Council of Wales, the Rayne Foundation with support from Health Well Being and Social Care Strategy.