THREE groups set up to help those living with dementia will continue with an innovative arts project after being awarded a £10,000 grant.

The Creative Age groups, which meet at Arts Centre Washington and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, have been given the funding by the Government’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund.

The funding will support the Creative Age Phone Project which enables people with dementia and their carers to enjoy weekly artist-led, home-based creative activities.

Suzanne Davies, Development Manager at Sunderland Culture which organises the groups, said: “More people are living with dementia and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest creativity is intact after other cognitive functions decline. Creative Age activities focus on people’s imagination and ideas; they are about what the individual can do now, and not about what has been lost.

“Due to Covid-19 our Creative Age groups cannot meet, but we know routine and regular connection is important for people with dementia and their carers. In response, we adapted our regular venue-based sessions into a phone project; posting creative activity packs to complete at home with weekly telephone support.

“This generous grant will support our Creative Age Phone project for a further five months. It enables us to pay for an artist’s time and produce creative activity packs with activities designed specifically for people living with dementia.

“Activity instructions will be sent weekly by post or email, with weekly telephone calls offering a social chat to maintain personal connection and support with activities. This project will benefit 30 people living with dementia and their carers.

“The project aims to replicate the joyfulness of the groups until they can meet face-to-face in our venues again.

“We’re very grateful to the Government’s Community Support Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund for the grant, and their swift response to our application. It was a very quick decision, which will enable us to continue to support our groups during this difficult time.”

Rebecca Swindells, from one of the Arts Centre Washington groups said: “I am enjoying the Creative Age Phone Project. It is something to look forward to and it’s keeping my mum happy and myself happy. It helps us fill the time in and keep our brains ticking.”

Coun Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City, said: “Programmes like the Creative Age groups can be hugely important parts of people’s lives, providing a sense of routine, community and enjoyment for those living with dementia and their families, so it is very sad to think of these groups not being able to continue their excellent work. I am delighted to see the Creative Age groups have been awarded funding so they can continue to support families affected by dementia.”

Arts Centre Washington set up its two Creative Age groups in 2016, and the Museum, supported by Arts Council England, set up its Creative Age group last year.

Creative Age is the name for the overarching project set up by Equal Arts, a creative ageing charity, several years ago. Its aim is to support adults living with dementia, and their carers, to participate in arts activities to improve their wellbeing.

Arts Centre Washington has two Creative Age groups, the Have-a-Goers who were meeting on Thursdays, and Singing in the Rain, who were meeting on Fridays before the pandemic lockdown.

Professional artists lead the groups’ sessions and they have explored a range of different mediums such as drawing, textile, glass making, animation, singing and performance. Artwork created by Creative Age participants has been showcased in several exhibitions and events at Arts Centre Washington.

The groups have staged a performance held in Arts Centre Washington in 2018 as part of their event, The Creative Age Celebration, during which they also unveiled a textile banner they created thinking about their identity, their local area and its history.

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