Creative Industries

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Opera strikes a chord through Alzheimer’s project

Alzheimers Project - Performance of Smashing Butterfly (Image by Bartosz Madejski

The project: Alzheimer’s Project is a joint project between Scottish Opera and Alzheimer Scotland. The participants group involves people with dementia, their carers, and a team of professional singers and artists who lead weekly practise sessions that involve a wide range of activities reflecting the diversity and richness of opera.

The challenge: To lead a series of original music and movement workshops and to provide a framework of performance as a stimulus for creativity, self-expression, physical fitness and mental alertness, socialisation and enjoyment for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The purpose: To deliver a project highlighting the positive ways in which various art forms and relationship building can enhance the quality of life for those with dementia as well as their carers and families.

The people: Alzheimer’s Project is collaboration between Scottish Opera and Alzheimer Scotland, aiming to address the issues faced by people affected by Alzheimer’s in a positive, relaxed and enjoyable way.

Scottish Opera is Scotland’s national opera company and the largest performing arts organisation in Scotland. Through its extensive programme of outreach work the Company aims to engage with people of all ages and abilities and much of this work is designed to help make opera mean something to people for the first time, or to present it in ways which are new and inspiring.

Alzheimer Scotland is the leading dementia organisation in Scotland, campaigning for the rights of people with dementia and their families and providing an extensive range of innovative and personalised support services.

The outcomes: The group of participants and their carers were introduced to the complementary arts experiences, such as visual arts & movement, designed to further support the physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Over the last three years, the participants have assisted in devising and performed three original shows which were based on individual experiences and memories from their past.

After a successful first year of the project running in Glasgow it was decided to do a pilot programme in Dundee delivering a number of exploratory workshops in music and movement which then led to a parallel project running in Dundee the following year.

Having confirmed the future plans of continuing the project for another 5 years, a new project, this time focusing on the carers and volunteers working with people affected by Alzheimer’s was proposed. The project will aim to enhance individuals’ personal creativity, help to support their well-being and sense of worth as a creative individual (as opposed to their daily role as a carer for someone else) by delivering training in a range of expressive arts. The project, which will engage with the carers and volunteers from a number of local authorities in Scotland, will encourage them to use their talent and new skills to deliver similar arts activities and share the best practices within their own regional or local Alzheimer support group.

The impact: Raised awareness of the Alzheimer’s disease and the ways in which regular social interaction and participation in arts activities can improve the mental and physical wellbeing of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The project also encouraged the carers/family members to share the acquired new skills with other people as well as to continue working with arts at home or other environments. The participants have reported increased confidence and improved physical strength and balance.

This case study was published in September 2014.



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