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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.

Brand NEW! Treasury of Arts Activities for Older People Volume 2

A second volume of the hugely popular Treasury by Liz Postlethwaite, this time with 52 creative activities, one for each day of the year. Designed for everyone who would like to bring more art and creativity into the work they do with older people.

Available to download from our website or order a printed copy.

Recently added!

NEW! Age Cymru’s cARTrefu programme & activity cards

Age Cymru has launched a new website for its very successful cARTrefu programme – the biggest arts in care homes programme in Europe.

There are a total of 45 creative activity sessions, covering visual arts, performing arts, words and music, and sensory activities – all designed to be done without expert knowledge or specialist equipment. You can find them all here.

NEW! The Lowry’s Creative Hub

The Lowry’s Creative Hub has activities for all ages, including a dedicated section for Older People. There are ideas for dance, drama, creative writing, wellbeing and visual arts – available as pdfs or videos.

Visit the website here.

NEW! Moving Well creative movement workshops

Moving Well is a new online learning resource from Moving Memory Dance Theatre of more than 50 films and over 20 worksheets which can be used by workshop leaders to plan participatory creative movement workshops.

Designed primarily for older peoples’ groups (but can be done with all ages), Moving Well contains plenty of practical information together with a unique “pick‘n’mix” of exercises, from which you can plan your workshop, taking whatever suits you and your group.

NEW! Travel These Ways: Songs to sing at home

Commissioned by Luminate’s Dementia Inclusive Singing Network, this is a collection of songs created for people living with dementia to enjoy singing on their own or with family, friends or carers. The collection includes two new songs written by award-winning musician Karine Polwart, and two medleys of well-known songs. With each song and medley you will find:

  • Films of songleaders guiding you through the songs
  • Song words
  • Notated music
  • Recorded music for you to sing along with – an instrumental version and a version with other singers

Take a listen

Mixed art form collections

Treasury of Arts Activities for Older People: Volume 1

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.

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 collection of 31 short online films demonstrating creative activities developed by the creative ageing development agency for Scotland, Luminate, and Scottish Care, and shared throughout the lockdowns of 2020.

The activities are presented by professional artists and 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.

View all the activities here

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

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

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.

Visual arts, crafts, history of art

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 creative activities.

Crafts Council: Dementia-friendly craft with a garden theme

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


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

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

Equal Arts: Create at Home packs

Equal Arts – the specialist creative ageing organisation based in Newcastle & Gateshead – produce regular Create at Home Packs. Packs cost £4 (plus P&P),  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.

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


Dance and movement

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

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.


Music, singing and musical get-togethers

If you’re lucky enough to be based in Newcastle and Gateshead you can request a visit from Equal Arts’ Singing Hinnies to brighten up your care home (£60) or a local street (free). You can book online here and you can hear them singing here!

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.

Join in with the The Sofa Singers – a weekly online choir run by vocal leader, James Sills. Tuesdays, 7.30pm GMT and Fridays 11am GMT.

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

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

More information here.

Activities specially for people living with dementia

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


Ready-made schemes to take part in

Good ideas have popped 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. It can be letters, postcards, artwork and/or poems..!

So far Arts in Care Homes have linked up 300 care homes with partners including artists, arts organisations, school children, families and individuals across the UK (and as far away as Mexico and Japan!)

More here

64 Million Artists: Online creative challenges

64 Million Artists will again be running the January Challenge in 2021, sending fun daily creative challenges for people to do and share.

Sign up for challenges here. 

Bigger collections for all ages

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.

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.