Challenging Ageist Assumptions about Arts in Care Homes


Press release:

On the first National Day of Arts in Care Homes Magic Me announces a new round of Artists’ Residencies in Care Homes, this time featuring Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Fevered Sleep, Gecko and curious directive paired with four care homes in Essex run by Excelcare UK. The project is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Magic Me has a reputation for challenging the preconceptions of what arts in care homes look like and this new round of artists’ residencies (the pilot project ran 2015-2017) will be even more innovative. Working with arts organisations who are at the cutting edge of their art forms and leaders in their field, the project will challenge not just the public’s perception of what ‘old people’ living in care homes want, but also the artists themselves who will be exploring a whole new audience and way of working. Staff and management of the care settings will also gain a greater understanding of what arts can do for their residents and of the hidden talents of the people they care for.

Susan Langford, Director of Magic Me says:

“People over 75 are one of the most marginalized groups in terms of arts participation. Ageism is still rife and socially acceptable in a way that other prejudices are not, colouring the way older arts audiences are viewed as less important, not open to new work and even, not ‘on brand’ by some arts organisations. Care homes are the butt of jokes or feared places of last resort, not people’s homes. Thanks to funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation this project can start to address these prejudices. I passionately believe that just because someone lives in a care home they don’t stop being entitled to high quality arts and culture, or to a participative experience that is more than just something to pass the time.”

ARCHE takes a radical new approach to working in care homes. Each residency seeks to create something new with the care home residents as co-creators and collaborators rather than simply participants or audience. This is the challenge set to the professional artists and arts companies of ARCHE – bringing their core creative practice to care homes and adapting it to this particular audience and environment whilst firmly maintaining the integrity of their work.

This new round of artists’ residencies takes place in Essex as a response and challenge to the view that exciting creative work in care homes in the south of England is too London-centric. The project will see each organisation paired with a care home run by Excelcare in either Maldon, Harwich, Chigwell or Colchester. Over the three years of the project the arts organisations will work with their chosen care partner to develop and test ideas in the first year, deliver the residencies in the second year and then in the third and fourth year ensure that learning from the projects is disseminated and embedded in order to facilitate further artists/care home partnerships.

The project also provides an opportunity for Magic Me to explore how their established models work in new types of home in a different type of community and what adaptations or innovations might be necessary. These high profile residencies will provide a focus for both arts and care organisations in the county and Excelcare will share learning with another 29 care homes that they run in London and the east of England.

Working closely with Essex County Council Magic Me plans to build a network of arts organisations and practitioners keen to follow the progress of ARCHE both on-line and through jointly promoted events. They will also work with the council to co-promote the project impact, learning and their expertise and to use the Anglia Ruskin University research and tools to argue the proven case, within and beyond Essex to care providers and commissioners. Magic Me has already been working with Essex County Council, through their Creative Journeys programme, to help set up intergenerational arts projects and train staff and artists and they will build on what they have learnt from this process into the project.

Magic Me has 30 years of innovative work in care homes through its experience in delivering intergenerational arts projects. ARCHE is set up and designed to provide support to all the partners involved, through mentoring, training days and support. With support from a research team at Anglia Ruskin University the project will also explore the collaboration between artists and care home staff in delivering creative arts experiences for older people and develop a best practice toolkit for others working in this area. The personal and societal benefits of older people’s participation in creative arts has been well evidenced by the Baring Foundation and others including and the recent Creative Journeys Research funded by Arts Council England.

This research conducted by ARU focused on the benefits around social relationships between older people and between older people and care staff, and the wider community. The research indicated that the relationship between arts organisations, artists and care staff is key to the successful delivery of arts activities within residential care homes. The findings from the Magic Me Artists’ Residencies evaluation will offer new evidence for best practice in how arts organisations work with care home staff to provide activities for older people and how artists and care staff can work together to ensure the successful implementation of arts activities.

The research evaluation will be undertaken by Professor Carol Munn-Giddings, Dr Hilary Bungay, Dr Ceri Wilson and Anna Dadswell, a team of researchers based in the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Work Anglia Ruskin University.

The ARCHE project is a key strand of Magic Me’s current and future strategic plans. Funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled the charity to develop projects for the east of England and ARCHE is the first major piece of work to result from this. Funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation (with support from Essex County Council) ARCHE enables Magic Me’s strategic growth in the east of England, building relationships with key care providers and commissioners and locally based arts partners, curious directive and Gecko, and also brings into the mix two organisations with strong links to the east of England: New Adventures and Fevered Sleep. As well as exploring new territory geographically the project enables Magic Me to take forward another key aim of supporting other arts organisations to create work in and for care homes, to help facilitate new relationships between arts organisations and care providers, and to raise expectations of what the arts can be and do in care homes.

Featured image shows the first cohort of Magic Me’s artists for the Artists’ Residencies in Care Homes Essex programme.