Creative arts project through to finals of dementia competition

  • Date

    Wed 30 May 18

Dr Mary Kennedy

A team from Essex are through to the finals of Challenge Dementia, a national search for products and services to transform how people live with dementia.

The team has proposed a creative communities project, using the arts to help people living with dementia in Essex express themselves. 

The programme will bring together people with dementia, their families, colleges and universities, local health and social care organisations, and charities.

Dr Mary Kennedy, Lecturer in our School of Health and Social Care and one of the project leads, said: “We’re very aware that dementia is on the increase and there’s so much more we can do to raise awareness. 

“Our aim is to help people living with dementia stay in their communities, remain independent and empowered, and feel their voices are heard.”

The Essex team is one of nine finalists who will each receive a micro-grant of £5,000 to develop and test their ideas for six months, with the help of experts from both public and private sector organisations. A winner will be chosen in December 2018 to receive a £100,000 prize to invest in their project.

The team will start with drop-in events for local people to share their ideas. The feedback will be used to develop a programme of creative workshops, which could include creative writing, poetry, drama, digital stories and interactive fiction. People living with dementia will be able to share their stories and talk about their lives, increasing awareness of their experiences.

“Our aim is to help people living with dementia stay in their communities, remain independent and empowered, and feel their voices are heard.”
Dr Mary Kennedy School of Health and Social Care

This idea was inspired in part by an innovative teaching activity, where our nursing, occupational therapy and physiotherapy students watched a play about dementia.

Dr Kennedy said: “Students said they’d learned more in an hour than they would from three hours of Powerpoint presentations. It captured their interest and really made them think, helping them understand the experiences of people living with dementia and their families.”

There are also plans to develop new plays to perform locally and run poetry evenings.

Dr Kennedy said: “Getting involved in community events can help keep people with dementia active and independent. We’ll initially be working with people at the early stages but in the future we’d like to look at how we can work with those with more advanced dementia. We’d hope to work with local care homes.”

Challenge Dementia, pioneered by Essex County Council, is a national prize looking for innovative ideas that could enable people living with dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them. The prize is being run by Essex County Council with support from Alzheimer’s Society, PA Consulting, tech UK and the University of Essex Catalyst Project.

The Essex project is being led by Dr Mary Kennedy and Marty Jacobs, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University. For more information and to get involved, email Dr Kennedy on