Dementia Friendly Arts Venues

Historically Bright Shadow has mainly taken their work inside care homes, bringing zestiness to the people that live and work there. This is important. But two thirds of people with dementia live in the community. This is roughly 566,666 people. There are also an estimated 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK. Therefore there is almost 1.25 million people in the UK living in the community, affected by dementia.

It is no small wonder that there are large, national campaigns and programmes working towards making the UK a dementia friendly place to live. Dementia friends, dementia friendly communities and local DAAs all do fab work in this area. This is also why, at Bright Shadow we have been working hard over the last 12 months to bring Zestiness to people affected by dementia living in the community through projects like Zest thanet.

It has also been exciting to work with arts and culture venues to help them to become more dementia friendly – or even dementia inclusive – places to be. Arts and culture has the power to inspire, animate, give perspective, provoke conversation, lift moods, be cathartic, provide escapism and spark empathy as well as creating  a jolly good time!

This is why enabling people with dementia, and those that care for them, to enjoy their local and national arts and culture venues is SO important.

Here are our 4 top tips for how to make dementia friendly arts venues:

  1. Be Friendly. Your staff and volunteers are your most important resource. If they are equipped and empowered to be welcoming, helpful and engaged with people with dementia then that will go a long way. Achieve this by organising a Dementia Friends session, or inviting Bright Shadow to come and run a Dementia Awareness session as part of their Bright Spaces programme.
  1. Be accessible. Accessibility for people with hearing, sight or mobility problems is something that most venues have considered and actioned. But you might want to go a step further by thinking about how easy it is for someone with dementia to access your building and activities. For example, when working with the Vue Cinema in Thanet, we found that it wasn’t clear in their building where to buy tickets from, or even which big glass panel was the open door to the building, particularly in quiet periods. A few temporary signs solved the problem cheaply and easily. Bright Shadow can help you work through these issues in their ‘Making your visitor experience dementia friendly’ session.
  1. Be interesting. If you are programming any dementia-specific events, don’t fall into the trap of imagining everyone as the same age, with the same tastes, with enthusiasm for all things reminiscence. People with dementia’s ages span decades and they want to experience and learn new things as much as anyone else. If I went to a museum exhibition about pop culture from the 90s (which is when I grew up), I’m sure I’d find it interesting. The first time. But if every subsequent exhibition I went to was something related to the 90s, I’d stop going along!
  1. Be engaging. People with dementia may enjoy extra activities or interactive elements to help them make the most of their experience of your venue. This might be a post-film discussion like we are doing with the Vue, or it might be sensory object sessions like we have designed with Quex Museum and the Beaney. If you would like help designing some outreach and engagement activities, Bright Shadow can deliver consultancy as part of their Bright Spaces programme.

It’s no secret that traditional models of health and social care are struggling to meet all of the wellbeing needs of people with dementia and their carers. It’s also no secret that arts and culture has an amazing capacity to improve the wellbeing of people. Therefore it’s time the arts and culture sector started making themselves available and visible as BRIGHT spaces for people with dementia and their carers.

If your arts and culture venue would like help to become aBright Space for people with dementia, then contact Bright Shadow for information on how we could make this a reality with you.