Excellence in research award for arts collaboration

13 September 2011

The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing has been given a prestigious Royal Society for Public Health Award 2011 for excellence in research. Prof. Sarah Harper and Dr. Kate Hamblin of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing produced a report on a project organised by the Dulwich Picture Gallery, ‘Good Times: Art for Older People’. The project explores the value of gallery visits and workshops for promoting wellbeing and tackling social isolation among older people, including those affected by dementia. The project was organised by Dulwich Picture Gallery, an independent charitable trust offering a free education programme, funded by voluntary grants and donations.

In the report, Kate Hamblin writes: “The Good Times project began in 2005, responding to deep concerns about the increasing problems of isolation facing our ageing society.” Hamblin commented that the scale of isolation and loneliness among older people in the UK is revealed in stark statistics by Age Concern and the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

• There are now more people in the UK aged 60 and over than there are under 18 (ONS).

• Over 65s are estimated to spend an average of 80% of their time in the home.

• One in three people over 65 will die with some sort of dementia.

• Nearly 300,000 older people have gone a full month in the last year without speaking to family or neighbours

• Many older people interact only with their postmen on a day-to-day basis.

According to Sarah Harper: “During the three years that the Institute of Ageing in Oxford has been involved with the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the impact of the Good Times Programme has been clear. Social isolation is a major issue for many older adults, and we now understand that this not only contributes to psychological distress but also impacts upon quality of life and physical health as well. The Good Times Programme clearly reveals the important role that our Museums and Galleries can play in enhancing the lives of older people from diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds. It also, through involvement in such schemes as ‘Prescription for Art,’ begins to indicate the potential that such activities can have in alleviating symptoms of depression and dementia.”

The Royal Society for Public Health Awards recognise excellence and innovation in the public health contributions of creative arts organisations.