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Holding eternity in an hour: A practical exploration of the arts in the health care of older people with dementia

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Abstract:

This project involved creative artists working with older people with dementia and staff from two Belfast Health and Social Care Trust-supported housing centres in a mixed programme of dance, painting, music and drama that culminated in an open workshop with relatives and friends of the tenants. The study steered away from traditional medical models of art/music/dance therapy where the participant is perceived as a 'patient' in favour of identifying the participant as a 'student' who avails of a lifelong learning experience. A key premise was that access to the arts is a human right, especially in the context of advancing age and cognitive impairment. According to one of the tenants of Mullan Mews, the project served to 'awaken – or reawaken – folk with dementia to the endless vista of possibility already in their lives if they will only look for it'. A phenomenographic analysis of video data generated by the project emphasizes the importance of the individual experiences of participants in the programme. The evidence from these storylines gained strength from the development of a documentary-style film text that has proved successful in capturing and translating the live experience of the project participants into a supportive text that goes beyond the written word.

Keywords: arts; creativity; dementia; health care; human rights; lifelong learning; older people; participation; visual ethnography

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jaah.2.3.237_1

Affiliations: 1: Queen's University 2: Arts Care

Publication date: January 11, 2012

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  • The Journal of Applied Arts and Health serves a wide community of artists, researchers, practitioners and policy-makers evidencing the effectiveness of the interdisciplinary use of arts in health and arts for health. It provides a forum for the publication and debate within an interdisciplinary field of arts in healthcare and health promotion. The journal defines 'health' broadly which includes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social and community health.
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