Mental Health and the Arts

“Age UK’s recent Wellbeing Index went so far as to say that social and civic participation and creative and cultural participation are hugely important, together making up almost 1/8th of total wellbeing in later life. Furthermore, research by the Arts Council England in 2016 found that 76% of older people said arts and culture was important in making them feel happy, while over half of those surveyed said that arts and culture helped them to meet other people as well as encouraging them to get out and about. Meanwhile, the Mental Health Foundation discovered increased confidence and self-esteem amongst participants that were engaged in forms of participatory art.”

Research suggests that arts and culture are vital to older people’s mental health and wellbeing. We investigate the research and discuss some of the barriers to participation for older people.

An older man and two older women laughing over a cup of tea

Our Manifesto: Make London’s Boroughs Age Friendly!

“The London local elections are rapidly approaching, with polling day set for Thursday May 3rd. Four years on from the last London borough elections, all London borough councillor seats are set to be decided, alongside Mayoral contests in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.

As London continues to grow in size, the number of older Londoners is increasing too – a 2016 estimate revealed that over a million Londoners were aged 65+ and 140,000 of that total were over the age of 85. A socially and economically diverse demographic, older Londoners contribute massively to every borough of the capital, as paid workers, volunteers, carers, family members, community activists, and in a whole host of other ways. As the number of older Londoners continues to increase, so too will these vital contributions to city life.

However, there are also a large number of older Londoners who are experiencing poverty and inequality, just like London’s other demographics. Whilst poverty amongst older people had been falling, there has sadly been a recent increase in the number of people who have dipped below the poverty line in later life. London’s housing crisis continues to affect people of all ages, with a serious lack of affordable housing in many areas. Loneliness too is an intergenerational concern, yet isolation is a particular concern for the older generation. The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has discovered that ‘more than 1 in 3 people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control.'”

Age UKs across London are proud to present “Make London’s Boroughs Age Friendly!” a manifesto for the upcoming London borough Council elections.

Let Participants Lead Workshop Activities!

“Sometimes we are led to believe that projects such as a ten minute theatre performance by amateur actors with dementia is successful, but this may not be the case as an unusual and sophisticated art project doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of the participants. There is a hidden danger in progressive projects which are sometimes designed to attract participants and promote the work of the company or facilitator organising them, and not to serve the needs of the participants. It’s a blessing that so many artists and organisations are using art in healthcare settings but most of the time there are no assessments of the individuals’ needs or an evaluation of these projects. We keep proving success by showing pictures with older people laughing while they are holding a puppet or a brush. If the camera lens is focused on a happy older lady doing yoga, then out of frame is likely to be an older man with advanced dementia, who is asleep on an armchair. Does this make this activity successful?”

Activities in care homes can have a huge impact upon the lives of older people, but we must make sure the workshops cater to the needs of the participants, not the performers! Eirini Dermitzaki explores how we can make sure care home activities best serve older Londoners.

A trumpet player performs at the Songbook

Songbook – from the Royal Albert Hall

For people of any age, research has found that music can inspire particular emotions or senses, conjure vivid memories, and create an atmosphere of collaboration, euphoria and closeness.

In some cases, individuals suffering from age-related illness have recognised loved ones after listening to favourite songs. Research by the charity Music For My Mind has advocated for inclusion of music in the standard therapy for dementia. Many of an individual’s most robust memories will be their earliest, including the music of their teenage years and all its associated emotions.

Live music in particular is able to create this effect even more vividly – by bringing the performance and collaboration directly to the viewer, and creating an event where groups of people can enjoy similar sensations, together.

The Royal Albert Hall’s Songbook Programme brings live music to older Londoners. Find out how to get involved!

Power of Touch

The Power of Touch in Tackling Loneliness

“It’s estimated that 1.2 million people are chronically lonely in the UK. The support structures for loneliness aren’t always strong, and it’s believed that around one in ten people visit their GP surgery because they are lonely. According to a report by the Campaign to End Loneliness, around two fifths of older people said that television was their main source of company. The pain associated with loneliness, has been compared to physical pain and the health effects of loneliness are astounding. It’s been compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is estimated to be twice as deadly as obesity. In addition, the risk of developing high blood pressure, dementia, depression and anxiety increase for those dealing with loneliness.”

With over 44,000 older Londoners described as “chronically lonely”, Ryan Mizzen looks at the consequences of a lack of physical contact on the health and wellbeing of older people.

Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care – Together at Last!

“The benefits of looking at an older person’s health and social care needs are clear. If an older person continually goes to the doctor with conditions that just don’t seem to improve, the doctor may not know that this person is having to make daily choices on heating their home or buying food. Similarly a social worker may find a client confused or unsteady on their feet, not knowing that the GP has changed their medication.”

Following the Cabinet Reshuffle, our CEO Paul Goulden analyses the new position of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and discusses the ways in which this could impact upon the lives of older Londoners.

red bag

The Red Bag Pathway – Improving Care Home Residents’ Visits to Hospital

“As a care home resident, it is highly likely there will be various visits and stays in hospital – in fact, a high proportion of all admissions and readmissions to hospitals are from residents in care homes. Care homes in South London have frequently expressed a need for better information sharing and communication between themselves and hospital teams during transfers of care into hospital. In many cases hospitals are unable to provide any information to care homes on residents’ care due to confidentiality and on discharge there is often a lack of information on changes to medication or care needs. Worse still, on many occasions, residents discover their belongings are often lost while in hospital.”

How can we smooth the transition from care home to hospital? Don Shenker of the Health Innovation Network South London investigates…

fruit and veg

Fruit and Veg – Too Much or Too Little?!

“How are you managing? Do you actually eat 5 portions of fruit and veg day? Well done if you do – I don’t think there are many of us who actually succeed apart from the odd occasion! 5 portions of dark chocolate a day I can manage, but fruit and veg?!”

Following the culmination of our Fit 4 Purpose programme, our online Opinion Exchange closed. This week on the blog we thought we’d highlight one of the articles posted there earlier this year, all about the proposed changes to our recommended daily allowance of fruit and veg. You can find this article and many more on our Opinion Exchange.

LGBTQ dementia care

Dementia Care in the LGBT* Community

“People who are not LGBT* struggle to understand why it might be very important at times in our lives when we are experiencing particular stresses and changes to be with people with whom there is no need to hide or explain who we are.”

This week’s blog – which appears as part of Dementia Awareness Week – sees Opening Doors London’s Sally Knocker explain how dementia care differs for members of the LGBT* community.

Frailty

Why does Frailty Matter to all of us? What can we do About it?

Frailty is not a disease itself. It is a constellation of symptoms and signs characterised by a loss of physical reserve. It can be a consequence of a combination of acute and or chronic ill health, poor mobility, weight loss and social isolation.

Frailty matters to us all. This blog will describe what frailty is, what the consequences are, and what can be done to manage it and reduce its impact.