BRNZ Seminar ‘A Life More Ordinary’: How can we create dementia-friendly spaces by integrating the arts?

Transforming attitudes to dementia through the arts

BRNZ Professor Christine Milligan (Lancaster University, UK) presented a seminar at the Grafton campus on the 13th of April. Herself along with an extensive team at 'The Dukes' theatre in Lancashire have created a dementia-friendly community arts space.

The arts and health are two dynamic and inspiring sectors that are close to people's hearts. So this was always going to work. The only baffling thing is, why isn't this approach more widely practiced throughout the world?  

Following the pilot study, patrons of all ages and backgrounds (including dementia patients and their carers) are enjoying a vibrant schedule of theatre and music at 'The Dukes'. 

Dementia friendly communities emerged from the ‘age-friendly’ movement that has been supported by the WHO for some time. This recognizes that like most older people, those with dementia desire to remain in their own homes, and their own communities, for as long as possible. But it also recognizes the significant socio-environmental challenges this can present.

Transforming attitudes to dementia, supporting family and friend caregivers, and promoting meaningful participation for all in the community are essential to the success of the dementia friendly community movement. This paper draws on one such attempt to develop dementia friendly places through the arts.

Focusing on the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster, Professor Milligan discusses how the theatre and Age UK worked together to develop spaces where people with dementia and their family carers could continue to meaningfully participate in those ordinary everyday activities that can be crucial to maintaining that sense of belonging and partnership often lost as the dementia journey progresses.

Changes to small community venues can lead to maximum impact

Whilst efforts to implement change at the city and community level are laudable, Professor Milligan suggests that it's perhaps at the micro-scale of individual places that we are more likely to successfully implement change.

BRNZ_visiting researcher Christine Milligan


Professor Christine Milligan is Director of the Lancaster University Centre for Ageing Research.

Her main area of expertise is around health and geographical perspectives on ageing.

Specifically, her research focuses on voluntary and community interventions to support active and healthy ageing; informal (family) care-giving – including male care-giving and the gendered nature of care; the role of technology in supporting older people; and the changing nature of home and community.

A second key strand of her work focuses around the therapeutic landscape. This concept embraces the notion that certain environments promote health and wellbeing and is based on understanding how environmental, societal and individual factors work together to preserve health and wellbeing.

Download the presentation

If you missed the seminar, then you can download the presentation notes from Prof Christine Milligan's presentation. 

'Journeying together' by Age UK & The Dukes Theatre: An event for dementia sufferers and their carers

Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era

Music and Dance from the 1950's: An afternoon for dementia sufferers and their carers.

Resources: guides for creating a dementia-friendly community arts space

Alzheimer's UK: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Arts Venue

Alzheimer's UK: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Arts Venue 

Download this handy guide from Alzheimer's UK which provides tips for community groups, arts venue managers and staff who are interested in creating a dementia-friendly community arts space.

Doing this fosters a meaningful sense of community for dementia patients and their families who may be feeling left out. 

Arts 4 Dementia

Arts 4 Dementia is a UK based charity that believes that people with dementia and their carers have the right to enjoy life to the full. By participating in arts activity, rekindling and learning new artistic skills enables them to bypass dementia symptoms and enjoy new creative experiences together.

Arts 4 Dementia is a young charity helping to develop and co-ordinate dynamic high-quality events at arts venues as cognitive rehabilitation for families affected by dementia - from diagnosis.

Age of Creativity

Age of Creativity is an online platform to share, celebrate and inspire work in the field of arts and older people.

We are passionate about the impact that involvement and participation in the arts can bring towards improving wellbeing, physical health and reducing social isolation. We believe that everyone should have the possibility to access and take part in high quality, diverse and interesting arts opportunities.