Paintings in Hospitals is passionate that everyone, regardless of their age or condition, should have the opportunity to make the most of our art.

However, recent research has shown that the majority of people over the age of 65 do not attend art exhibitions or engage in any type of creative activity, with many citing poor health and the lack of transport as barriers.

In 2014, we embarked on a new project, Older People: In Focus (supported by the Bagri Foundation), designed to remove these barriers by providing the opportunity to engage with art in familiar, non-threatening surroundings. The outcome of the project would be a set of guidelines by which to create a refined Art & Older People loan programme, specifically tailored to the needs of the older audience.

The first phase of Older People: In Focus was intended to allow us to identify the types of artwork, in terms of subject matter, colour palette and medium, that have a more positive impact on those of us in our later years. To do this, we worked with three care homes in England. While individual preferences varied, as is to be expected, several themes did emerge:

  • A strong preference for representational art 
    Participants wanted to recognise what they were looking at and did not enjoy paintings that they could not quickly identify or understand.
  • A desire for calming and peaceful images 
    This reason was common for scoring an image highly in terms of preference, regardless of other aspects of the image.
  • A strong preference for images of places 
    The strongest responses were to seascapes and familiar landscapes. Participants found the seascapes comforting.

Although by no means definitive, the key principles from the report will allow us to continue to build and refine our Art & Older People loan programme in a direction that ensures the most positive impact on the health and wellbeing of those over the age of 65.

The artworks in the Art & Older People programme are available to any health or social care site for display in waiting rooms, corridors and at bedsides. These artworks will help to create a more familiar and homely environment, encouraging reflection, reminiscence and relaxation for staff, patients and their families.

See more of our research...