As part of Paintings in Hospitals' 60th anniversary celebrations, we brought together an exciting panel at our Framing the Future event to discuss the future innovations of arts in health. Watch Professor Victoria Tischler give her opening provocation, setting out her vision of creative care for older people…


Fine arts in every care setting. This is my manifesto for creative provision in the future for older people.

We are an ageing society. The UK has nearly 12 million people aged 65 and over. Of those, 5.4 million are aged over 75, 1.6 million are 85 years or older, and half a million are aged 90 or older. Between the years 2016 and 2046, the population aged 65 or over is forecast to grow by more than 50% and there will be a more than 100% increase in those aged 75 or over.

Ageism remains a societal problem with many older people finding it hard to access good quality care and services as a result. 850,000 people live with dementia in the UK. Most of those are older people. The numbers are predicted to reach a million by 2025 and two million by 2051. 70% of people living in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems and despite increased efforts to find a cure for dementia, there isn't one on the horizon. In the absence of a cure, therefore, how do we ensure that those people living with dementia receive the best quality care possible?

The arts have a significant role to play in the lives of older people, many of whom have dementia. Although many care settings are working hard to improve their cultural provision, high-quality creative activities are lacking for many. It is a scandal that many older people, who after dedicating their adult lives to contributing economically, raising the next generation and supporting their communities, are left under-stimulated and given little choice of what type of activity they wish to participate in. Research evidence supporting the positive benefits of arts for people with dementia is growing. Some of the benefits include increased attentiveness, promotion of meaningful conversation, improvements in mood and enhanced verbal fluency.

So, what will the future look like when all older people have access to high-quality art that improves the care environment, provides stimulation and intellectual challenge, improves their mood and reduces stress, anxiety and depression? I have three ideas that I want to put forward.

Firstly, every care home will have an artist-in-residence, not simply to offer creative activities but to work alongside nurses doctors and carers to challenge and change the culture of care to bring flexibility curiosity and inspiration to settings that can often be inflexible dull and lacking in imagination. Many artists welcome the opportunity to work with older people and find the experience benefits them professionally by providing inspiration to develop their own practice. Some artists are really pushing boundaries to provide novel creative engagement. Two of those, Kate Sweeney and Claire Ford moved into a care home in Gateshead in 2017, living alongside residents for a month, creating artwork together. Another artist, Chris Green, has developed an experiential theatre piece called The Home, where the audience is invited to move in for two nights to be cared for.

Secondly, all GP surgeries up and down the country will have not ragged issues of Country Life and Prima from 2008 but exceptional artwork to enjoy - like Paintings in Hospitals’ current project Artemisia Visits… And this is important as many older people visit the GP regularly, particularly people who live alone.

Thirdly, every hospital across the country will have high quality art on its walls, like the wonderful Paintings in Hospitals showcase at the nearby University College Hospital: art that is chosen by patients and staff to provide aesthetic pleasure, to stimulate meaningful conversation, to distract from pain and anxiety, and to soothe and reflect upon.

Wherever we live, no matter what our health status, we all have a right to access culture. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

So, join us to think more like an artist and act creatively and ensure that everyone, including the oldest members of our society, experience the pleasures, enrichment and life-affirming benefits of art.

Find out more about how your GP practice, hospital, hospice or care home can work with Paintings in Hospitals…

Framing the Future: a Paintings in Hospitals panel discussion on the past, present, future role of arts in health.

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Prof. Victoria Tichler is Professor of Arts and Health and Head of Dementia Care at the University of West London. She is a Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and Senior Fellow at the Institute of Mental Health. Victoria is leading several projects to develop evidence for arts and multisensory approaches in dementia care and she is Executive Editor of the Arts & Health journal. Victoria is also a trustee of Paintings in Hospitals. Victoria is on Twitter (@victischler)