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22 June 2020

COVID-19: Arts and creative resources for older people (and anyone else) in isolation

Harriet Lowe
Information about creative initiatives and useful resources to support particularly older people in isolation and in care homes during the COVID-19 crisis. Please do let us know about anything you're doing.

Over the years people have told us countless times about much of a difference being creative has made to them – through the social contacts made as well as the intrinsic pleasure of making or performing. A report we did with the Campaign to End Loneliness back in 2012 highlighted the already high levels of loneliness among older people. This is going to be a particularly hard time.

However, the wonderful world of creative ageing is already alive with ideas about how we can still bring the joy of arts and creativity into care homes and to older people isolated at home.

We are collecting them here as we see them on the basis that the more signposting there is, the better. We know there will be lots more going on that we haven’t come across yet – if you’re doing something or know of someone who is, let us know and we’ll keep adding to this.

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance

The CHWA, which serves the whole arts and health sector, is putting together a page of resources related to the COVID-19 crisis.

This includes a growing list of digital creative resources which care homes might be able to use or adapt for residents, as well as resources and advice for freelancers and arts organisations.

Age of Creativity

Age of Creativity have collected activities with older people in mind here, usefully themed by art form. Includes activities for care homes and people living with dementia.

MARCH Network: Creative isolation resources

The MARCH mental health research network has a page of resources to creative activities which might be useful for care homes too.

Resources to support creative activity in care homes

Treasury of Arts Activities for Older People

Compiled by Liz Postlethwaite with our support, the Treasury is a free compilation of 50 arts activities (all sorts from dance to craft) for use in settings with older people, including care homes.

It’s available to download from our website.

Arts in Care Homes

Arts in Care Homes runs the annual National Day of Arts in Care Homes (in September) and its website has lots of activities and how-to guides.

Artists John Fox and Sue Gill who are interviewed in The Artist in Time (Herbert Press 2020) which profiles artists born before 1950, also prepared this lovely simple visual arts activity for Arts in Care Homes Day 2020 called Through the Window.

Creative care homes – an A-Z of arts activities and inspirational ideas

A new resource by Paintings in Hospitals with lots of ideas for visual arts activities (printmaking, quick drawing, repeat pattern, still life…) for care homes.

Download here and hard copies can be requested from Paintings in Hospitals

Nottingham City Arts: the Armchair Gallery app

The Armchair Gallery is an app developed by Nottingham City Arts which brings world-class heritage, museum and gallery collections to you. It is especially designed for people living with dementia.

It includes artworks and artefacts from the collections of Chatsworth House, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Lowry, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Pitt Rivers Museum, Mr Straw’s House & Newstead Abbey, and lots of creative activities alongside them.

It includes instructions for carers for doing tried-and-tested creative activities.

You can download the app here.

On a similar theme, V21 Artspace have made virtual tours of hundred plus art exhibitions to explore virtually, which could provide starting points for creativity activities.

Age Cymru: cARTrefu activity cards for arts in care homes

Lots of simple activities – visual arts, performing arts, words and music – designed to be done without expert knowledge or specialist equipment.

The activities were developed by artists involved in Age Cymru’s Artist in Residence in Care Homes scheme – cARTrefu – which has been hugely successful.

Normally a pack of cards, they are also available as pdfs here.

Social Care Institute for Excellence: Arts in Care Homes resource bank

SCIE have a resource bank on their website with ideas and tips for care homes on doing creative activities with residents, covering everything from jewellery making to puppetry to drawing and painting. It also includes advice on how to do it without any external input or facilitation and lots of simple ideas.

Find it here


A new programme of short online films demonstrating creative activities developed by the creative ageing development agency for Scotland, Luminate, and Scottish Care

The activities will be presented by professional artists and will feature different arts forms including crafts, poetry, music and dance, aimed people living in their own homes, as well as care home staff who are looking for ideas of activities for residents.

Films will be posted every Tuesday and Friday at 2pm (starting 24 March) on Luminate’s website and Facebook page, and will be on its Vimeo and YouTube channels. Films will be left online so you can access them at any time.

More info here

Upswing: Homemade Circus!

Simple circus games and exercises designed for care homes and to be led by staff. No experience or circus skills necessary.

This handbook was developed as part of the Hull City of Culture celebrations and funded by the Foundation.

Download the resource

Small Things: The Storybox Project

The Storybox Project is a fun and inclusive programme of activities for people living with dementia, which use creativity and imagination as a starting point. Intended for group settings like care homes but also for families at home and with accessible recipe-style ideas. They are currently able to offer it for free thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Fund.

Find out more

Crafts Council: Dementia-friendly craft with a garden theme

Dementia friendly craft ideas designed by the Crafts Council with the Garden Museum.


Creative Minds: Art Activity Boxes

Art Activity Boxes from Creative Minds contain everything you need to run an art session, including plans, equipment and materials. They also deliver, depending on your location. £35 a box. Creative Minds artists normally work in settings like care homes and day centres so activities will be tailored to suit.

Find out more

Creative Mojo: Free isolation activity resources

Creativity Mojo have some free creative activities for care homes, carers and those socially isolating, as well as their more tailored paid-for offers for care homes.

Find out more

National Museums Liverpool: dementia-friendly My House of Memories app

The My House of Memories app allows you to explore objects from the past and share memories together. It can be used by anyone, but has been designed for, and with, people living with dementia and their carers.

You need a tablet for the app – but there are also ideas on the website for creating Memory Trees and Memory boxes non-digitally.

Find out more

Manchester Museum in Quarantine – Cultural First Aid Kit: Resources for Carers

30 creative and fun activities and workshops that can be completed in the comfort of your own home, in hospital or care centres and homes. Includes music, storytelling, craft and visual art.

Find out more

Equal Arts, Newcastle & Gateshead 

New Create at Home Packs have four activities a month and there’ll be an exhibition later in the year when people can contribute to in their chosen art form. Packs cost £8 (including P&P) and are available here.

They also have How to Guides for care homes created by artists usually delivering creative workshops in care settings. Contact Equal Arts on if you’re interested in the guides and additional recorded tutorials.

You can also continue a story by Kate Mosse in a digital story chain. Anyone can contribute and the full story will be shared later in the year.

And if you’re lucky enough to be based in Newcastle and Gateshead you can request a visit from the Singing Hinnies to brighten up your care homes or a local street. Ask Equal Arts for more info.

Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts: Isolation Moments

Online art workshops, prompts and tutorials from Northamptonshire based Fermynwoods.

The first workshop is from artist Jessica Harby who runs classes in ‘anti-drawing’ where the goal is to draw badly! As an example, the first idea is called Drawing Sounds and encourages you to draw in respond to sound clips. Audio equipment and basic drawing equipment like coloured pencils and paper needed only.

Find the resources

Yorkshire Dance: Dance On

Dance On is an exciting project is for over 55s bringing citywide dance programmes in normal times to venues in Bradford, Leeds and Doncaster. They are now running sessions online on zoom – Wednesdays and Fridays.

More information here.

Ready-made schemes to take part in

Good ideas are popping up all over the place – some aimed at older people like Arts in Care Homes and others for all age groups.

Arts in Care Homes: Pen Pal scheme and Weekly Postcard Challenge for children

Arts in Care Homes run the National Day for Arts in Care Homes, the first of which we funded with the Rayne Foundation last year.

They are in the process of developing some new resources to provide ideas, tips and inspiration for care home staff to run activities with residents.

Only Connect – become an email Pen Pal

Linking up care homes with pen pal partners. Get in touch if you are a care provider who wants to receive mail or someone who would like to send messages to care homes.

Weekly Postcard Challenge for children/schools

School children and their parents will be encouraged to produce postcards on a range of creative themes, which will be sent to nominated care homes. All sorts of things welcome and possible, including writing letters, postcards, poems, artwork and/or video messages.

For both, contact @artsincarehomes or

More here

64 Million Artists: Create to Connect

For two weeks from 23 March, everyday creativity advocates 64 Million Artists are running Create to Connect offering to send fun daily creative challenges for people to do and share. They are meant for anyone who is at home at the moment.

Sign up for challenges here. 

Musical get-togethers – various!

Join in with the The Sofa Singers – a weekly online choir run by vocal leader, James Sills. Tuesdays, 7.30pm GMT.

There are opera live-streams from the Met in New York.

Shapeshifter Productions have been running Smiling Sessions, virtual sing-alongs featuring well-known artists, available on their website and an app.

The Singing for Better Breathing Resource includes ideas for warm-ups and familiar songs to sing along to on Youtube. The programme was designed with singers with long-term health conditions in mind by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre, part of Canterbury Christ Church University.

Local organisations like the Weekday Wow Factor in Glasgow are setting up an online disco which can be accessed via Skype. Follow them on Facebook to enquire.