Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

Dementia: building networks of support through art

  • Date: 17 September 2010
  • Area: National, South East
Artists working with older people as part of Suffolk Artlink's Falling About programme, delivered in partnership with Suffolk Falls Prevention Teams, 2010

Artists working with older people as part of Suffolk Artlink's Falling About programme, delivered in partnership with Suffolk Falls Prevention Teams, 2010. Credit: Suffolk Artlink

Dementia is an impairment that not only affects those who have it, but often affects partners, family or other principal carers who can feel isolated and unsupported.

Side by Side is an innovative new project in Suffolk which is working to address these issues and provide a lasting legacy for participants. The programme, delivered by Suffolk Artlink in partnership with the Alzheimer's Society, brings people with dementia and their family carers together to enjoy artist-led creative activities in a safe and supportive environment.

Part funded by a £100,000 Grants for the arts award from Arts Council England, Suffolk Artlink is also seeking match funding to deliver the project.

Chris Warner, Director of Suffolk Artlink, explains: 'The idea for Side by Side grew out of the support networks we saw that were available for mothers-to-be and young mothers. We thought it would be really valuable for carers of vulnerable people to have access to something similar.

'About two years ago we were commissioned by the Alzheimer's Society to deliver six artist-led workshops for people with dementia and their family carers. We've worked with the charity to build on what we learned from this experience and develop this programme which will be delivered over the next two years in Suffolk.'

Side by Side offers participants a programme of 10 sessions including activities such as dancing, singing, arts and crafts and theatre trips. The project will provide dementia awareness training to artists delivering creative activities, funding for venues, recruitment of potential participants and will also provide support at sessions where needed so that the family carers feel they can join in. 

'This is the opposite of respite care, which some carers feel uncomfortable with,' adds Chris. 'It's about the person with dementia and their carer sharing an enjoyable activity as equals - this approach can help to rekindle a small part of the original relationship that has been affected by dementia, even if just for a small time.'

As well as providing an environment in which carers can meet other carers, it is also hoped that the legacy of Side by Side will be that participants continue in their creativity and get to know arts facilities in their area which they can access and enjoy.