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Dementia and the arts internationally

David Carter and Alice Thwaite provide a comparison between the UK and the international scene in the field of creative dementia care.
It’s a very interesting thing to look outside the UK and think about work with people with dementia using the arts. I think a first thing to remember is there’s no such thing really as UK practice. Because the arts and care and health services are all devolved, fairly different things are happening in each of the four nations of the UK. And there’s already a great deal of learning that you can introduce simply by reconnecting those parts of the UK and learning from best practice, that there’s different initiatives happening with the Care Inspectorate in Scotland from the ones that are happening with the equivalent body in England. So there’s already a great deal of richness and variety within the UK.
I’ve been really amazed about the level of interest outside the UK in arts work with people with dementia and also it’s spread and variety. Baring Foundation’s had a number of experiences in this recently. So we’ve had a very good collaboration with a number of countries in northern Europe, which we’ve called Long Live Arts, which has involved Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. When that first started that was an inspiration by a colleague who works in a Dutch foundation, who about five years ago said to me, I’m worried, the Netherlands are lagging in comparison to the UK when it comes to arts and dementia. So last year, I was able to go back to him and say, you were wrong, weren’t you?
Because there were so many great aspects of work in the Netherlands, which I think are going to be really interesting for the UK to learn from. The Netherlands has got a fantastic programme called the Big Type Festival, which is a literary festival in care homes, which has a scale quite different to anything that we have in the UK. We’ve actually got a really good understanding now I think of the international scene. There’s some amazing examples in the States. One which I think should be replicated and could easily be replicated here is the Iona Wellness and Arts Centre in Washington.
So this is a centre that would have been seen in the past as a day centre for older people who have long-term health conditions, some of whom have dementias, but it’s actually seen as an art centre, where you then get some of those medical needs met. But actually, the emphasis is on having a really lovely, creative time. And there’s Tai Chi and there’s yoga. And I think that is really where we need to head, because it’s a kind of prevention agenda. It keeps people in the community out of hospitals. So it would support the kind of agenda of keeping older people, particularly with dementia, out of hospital.
We’ve had a new programme, which has been joint with the British Council, which has involved exchanges between artists in Korea, Japan, and in Taiwan. I think that’s been a tremendously successful and really interesting choice of countries. It’s a range of highly sophisticated, very well developed economies, which have got great cultural artistic traditions, but are also ageing faster in all three cases than the UK. So the incidence of dementia, for instance, in Japan is very, very considerably in excess of the UK, with roughly 4 million people living with dementia in Japan in comparison to less than 1 million in the UK.
So going to Japan and thinking about creative ageing, you’re almost looking at the future for the UK in probably around 20 years time. And I think we’ve learned a huge amount about what can be done from that.

In this video David Carter (Director, The Baring Foundation) and Alice Thwaite (Co-director, Equal Arts) provide a comparison between the UK and the international scene in the field of creative dementia care.

This includes:

  • How the provision of arts-based practices for people living with dementia differ within the countries of the UK, as well as the differences between the UK and other countries

  • Examples of joint initiatives that have been run between The Baring Foundation in the UK and abroad in Europe

  • Ways in which the UK can draw inspiration from initiatives in Holland and the US

  • Insight into a programme that has been run jointly with the Baring Foundation and the British Council focusing on the exchange of artists with Korea, Japan and Taiwan

Do you have any recommendations of arts-based programme for people living with dementia that you have encountered outside of the UK? If so, please share these in the Communal Pinboard at the end of this week.

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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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