Arts’ role in helping lonely

The Heydays projects has been running arts activities for over 50s at West Yorkshire Playhouse since 1990. Picture: Chris Thornton
The Heydays projects has been running arts activities for over 50s at West Yorkshire Playhouse since 1990. Picture: Chris Thornton
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ARTS and culture can “significantly improve” health and wellbeing - and have the potential to help tackle loneliness and isolation in older people, new research has found.

A survey on behalf of Arts Council England (ACE) found 76 per cent of over 65s felt arts and culture were important in making them feel happy, and more than half said it was an important way of helping them to meet other people.

ACE said the research could highlight how cultural activities could be key to help tackle social isolation and loneliness - and highlighted a project in Leeds that has been helping to get over 55s into the arts since 1990.

Darren Henley, chief executive of ACE, said the arts can help to “significantly “improve health and wellbeing.

He said: “With research showing that engagement in the arts tails off as people get older, we need to get cleverer about how we engage older people and tackle the barriers to taking part. Later in the year, we will be making new funds available for arts organisations to build on some of the great work they are already doing to enhance engagement with the older population.”

At West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP) , 300 over-50s take part in arts activities each week in the Heydays project.

Last autumn it paired with the £6m Time to Shine loneliness initiative in the city to take Heydays out of the centre and into surrounding towns and villages like Rothwell and Gipton.

Nicky Taylor, community development manager at WYP, said: “People tell us time and time again that Heydays is a lifeline, because it gives them social opportunities. By taking it into the community, the idea is to take the creative experience to the doorsteps of those who might not have the confidence to come into the city.”

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