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New resource for prescribing arts in aged care

The Arts on Prescription program uses participatory arts programs alongside traditional health care to help older people improve their wellbeing.

An innovative arts program that can benefit aged care residents and older people in the community has been launched in Sydney.

Professor Chris Poulos, head of research and aged care clinical services at HammondCare and Conjoint Professor at the University of NSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, was project leader for the Australian Government funded Arts on Prescription program.

It is evidence based and informed by similar programs run successfully in the UK.

Professor Chris Poulos

While focused on a community setting, the researchers ran some sessions in residential care and the model is equally suited to this setting, Professor Poulos said.

“All that’s needed is the space, and availability of equipment and supplies,” Professor Poulos told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Arts on Prescription uses a participatory arts programs alongside traditional health care to help older people improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

It links older people with professional artists to explore and enjoy a wide range of artistic endeavours in a regular small group setting over 10 weeks.

The idea behind the arts prescription is to emphasise to participants that their healthcare professional sees the value of involvement in the arts, alongside their traditional health care, in helping them achieve greater wellbeing.

Professor Poulos said they identified opportunities and benefits from conducting Arts on Prescription in residential care and with residents who participated in a community-based program.

“There is the opportunity to bring together residents with common interests, creating an opportunity for new social connections within facilities. We should not assume that residents of aged care facilities are not lonely or isolated within their facility,” he said.

“The fact that professional artists come into the facility is seen as valuable by residents, especially as the artists are not otherwise involved in other aspects of the residents’ day-to-day care. Arts on Prescription is something new and different, and led by different people.”

He said the Arts on Prescription program was different to diversional therapy.

“Small groups, in this case residents, can work together achieving both personal and group goals. Programs can be about new learning and doing something meaningful,” Professor Poulos said.

The small group model can also be tailored to suit people in residential care living with dementia, he said.

“There is a sound body of evidence about the use of the arts to engage people living with dementia, including within residential care settings. The selected medium and nature of the program should be shaped by the goals of the program, which are based on the interests of participants.”

Arts on Prescription was launched at the International Arts and Health Conference in Sydney.

A free guide on using Arts on Prescription in aged care is available here.

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