Building confidence and self-worth for people living with dementia

05 November 2021

A collaboration between community partners and a Methodist church in Cheltenham has resulted in a creative arts project aimed at boosting the well-being of people living with dementia and their carers.

Creative Age is an arts-based, social community project for people living with dementia and their carers who still live independently.

It has been running since May 2018, hosted by Bethesda Methodist Church in Cheltenham. Participants take part in focused creative group sessions facilitated by experienced artists, exploring imaginatively with collective story-making, seated movement, dance, music, visual stimuli and poetry, with content driven by the participants’ interests.

Creative sessions are followed by socialising over tea and cake, hosted and coordinated by Bethesda Methodist Church and committed volunteers (who also support the artist-led sessions). Creative Age was set up to enrich peoples’ lives, reduce isolation, enable participants to engage imaginatively and socially, build their confidence and improve their wellbeing. Supporters/carers can choose to join in with creative sessions, or enjoy the hospitality and friendship offered by Bethesda volunteers, or simply take the time and space to do what they wish. 

Creative Age is an open and inclusive group. We receive referrals via Managing Memory Together, Alzheimer’s Society Memory Cafés, Age UK and word of mouth but anyone is free to contact us and self-refer. We want to reach out to people who are living with dementia and their carers in Cheltenham.  

Lindsay Williams, Senior Dementia Assessor, writes:

“Dementia destroys people’s confidence and self-worth. Creative Age makes people realise that they have a significant part in the community, enabling them to go away and function better due to their increased confidence and well-being.”

Creative Age is a unique initiative that enables people with dementia to engage in activities that provide both cognitive stimulation and the opportunity to socialise with others. This helps reduce social isolation and can help improve day-to-day functioning. Being involved in therapeutic activities also improves people’s confidence and self-worth which is often reduced for people with dementia.”

The Revd Naomi Cooke writes:

The desire to work alongside those living with dementia and those who care for them had been in the church’s thinking for some time, as we were very conscious of the potential social exclusion and isolation that can sadly accompany living with this condition.

"In 2017 something wonderful began to unfold. Open Arms Artists’ Collective approached Bethesda with the proposal that we collaborate in delivering a participant led creative programme. Our newly arrived lay worker brought with her experience of working alongside people living with dementia. And within the congregation there was a key link to the local NHS Managing Memory Together Trust. The jigsaw pieces came together in a powerful way and once funding was in place, Creative Age was born.

"We have discovered the strength in collaborating with partners and hope to further develop this model of working across other areas of community engagement.” 

Creative Age has been funded by Gloucestershire County Council, Bethesda Methodist Church, Gloucestershire Methodist Circuit, The Barnwood Trust and Gloucestershire Community Foundation. More information can be found here.