Dorset is ahead of the field in recognising that arts and nature can keep us well and help us live longer, fuller lives. Creative pursuits have an especially vital role to play for people with dementia. That’s according to a major arts, health and wellbeing Parliamentary inquiry.

Arts boost brain function

The report, ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’, discusses how activities such as dancing, painting or music can boost brain function, potentially helping to delay the onset of dementia. It also considers how arts can help memory recall in people with dementia. There is a move in dementia care to focus less on memory and more on improving quality of life for people who have dementia and for their carers.

Dorset workshops

In Dorset, people with mild to moderate dementia are to benefit from a host of arts activities organised by The Arts Development Company. The project begins this September in the Lyme Regis and Beaminster areas before moving on to cover the rest of the county. The three-year project will offer music making, working a potter’s wheel, walking and drawing large-scale paintings, stone carving, singing to the sea and dance, plus other opportunities.

Local artists, craftspeople, singers and musicians will be running the sessions. Those involved include artist Sarah Hough from Piddletrenthide, music leaders from B Sharp in Lyme Regis, Bridport artist Kim Squirrell, Fennella Stride and Miles Bell from New House Pottery in Broadoak, and Lyme Regis photographer Maisie Hill. Up to 12 people can participate in each session.

Stepping into Nature

Part of the Stepping Into Nature programme, the project is funded by the Big Lottery and led by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The aim is to help improve the health and wellbeing of older people and those with dementia and their carers, reducing social isolation and loneliness.

Cleo Evans, arts and environment lead at The Arts Development Company, said: ‘As this report proves, creativity and nature help with the well-being of people with dementia. Stepping Into Nature offers an opportunity to experiment with different art forms. It’s about improving quality of life by having fun and trying new things.’

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) was formed in 2014 and aims to improve awareness of the benefits that the arts can bring to health and wellbeing. During 2015–17, the APPGAHW conducted an inquiry into practice and research in the arts in health and social care, with a view to making recommendations to improve policy and practice. The partners in this inquiry were the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, King’s College London, the Royal Society for Public Health and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. It was funded by Wellcome, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.