Every day over eight million people wake up to a new day in London. For some it is the beginning of another choiceless, silent battle with loneliness. Age UK states that more than two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, more than a million of whom say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. The NHS website states that “it’s shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing”. Create has collaborated with the international law firm Ashurst to tackle the social problem of loneliness among older people.
Create and Ashurst have designed creative:engagement – the multi-arts project that tackle loneliness among older frail people. With a focus on older people with dementia and mental ill-health, the project builds confidence and facilitates positive social interaction through creativity. The project has been tailor-made to combine Create’s expertise in designing and running creative workshops in community settings with Ashurt’s Corporate Social Responsibility objectives and strategy.
Bringing participants from Maudsley’s SUCAG (Service User Carers Advisor Group) and The Holborn Community Association together with volunteers from Ashurst, the six-weekly workshops at Ashurst’s office provide an opportunity for the two groups of older adults to collaborate on creative projects, building new skills and new relationships.
During the project, the participants work with Create’s professional artists to explore a range of art forms – from sculpture, poetry and painting to photography, ceramics and jewellery-making. This range of art forms enables the participants to develop a variety of connected artistic and technical skills, boosting their self-esteem and creative thinking.
Isabel Porcel-Rojas, SUCAG’s Recovery and Engagement Worker, confesses that “for me the amazing thing is the shared activity with another group, Holborn Community. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure how it was going to be. My group is very friendly, but they got to know each other over a long period of time, so they are very good friends. But now at the end of each Create session, I hear people from my group tell their fellow-participants from Holborn Community, “Goodbye my good friend, see you next time”. They are building up new relationships within this group.”
Being part of creative:engagment from the start, Isabel has been able to observe the impact of the project on the participants. “Madeline has dementia and dyslexia”, Isabel shares, “and when I first asked her to be involved with Create, she told me, “yes but it will be a massive challenge for me. I’ve got dyslexia, I can’t read very complicated documents, I can’t write a lot of things”. Every single time Madeline arrived at a workshop, she would ask me, “Are they going to put me on the spot? Are they going to ask me to fill something out?”, so she was very private about her dyslexia and about the fact that she couldn’t write and read as well as some other people. The other day, though, in one of the drama sessions she just openly said to everyone, “I wouldn’t be able to do that because I’ve got dyslexia”. The fact that she was feeling confident enough and safe enough in the group to open herself up is very important. She feels a sense of belonging to something and feels safe and protected enough to know that she can just be herself”.
Learn about Ashurt’s global Corporate Responsibility programme on the law firm’s website. Corporate Responsibility programme of Ashurst is formed of projects local to individual offices within their network, which reflect the social, political, economic and environmental challenges of that location, as well as regional and global projects that make best use of their capability to respond to challenges that cut across borders.
Create is very proud of our collaboration with Ashurst and we look forward to further developing our partnership.