Arts Opportunities for Older People

New £700,000 fund launched by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to engage older people in the arts

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is to invest £700,000 in a new three year programme designed to encourage older people to take part in the arts. The programme will be jointly funded with The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Arts & Older People Programme will provide new opportunities for older people to engage with the arts, by joining a workshop or trying out a new arts activity.

Through funding new, innovative, community-led projects across art form areas such as dance, painting, crafts, storytelling, music and song, the programme will highlight and tackle the social justice issues older people face on a daily basis.

The first round of funding opens on July 8, with grants of up to £50,000 available to arts organisations, as well as community and voluntary groups.

Research has revealed that 21% of people in Northern Ireland aged 65 and over feel lonely often or always. 16% do not leave their homes more than once a week and 7% never leave their homes.

However, those that participated in arts activities experienced positive results, reporting an improvement in their overall mood and confidence, as well as helping to relieve stress, worries and pain.

Rosemary Kelly, chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained: 'We know that the arts have the power to raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation and can have a positive effect on an individual’s wellbeing. The arts have an important role to play in helping older people to find their voice, providing the tools to express the issues which affect them on a day-to-day basis, such as poverty, isolation, loneliness and mental illness.

'Over the course of the next three years it is our hope that through the arts this programme will help build a fairer, more inclusive society and improve the lives of those living in some of the most disadvantaged, deprived and marginalised areas of Northern Ireland.'

Eileen McClory is the choreographer of The Crescent Elderflowers Dance Company, a community theatre group for women over 60 that meets weekly in the Crescent Arts Centre, speaking at the launch of the Arts & Older People Programme, she said: 'In my role I see first-hand the benefits that participation in the arts can bring to a person’s life. By coming along to our weekly classes, the ladies have an opportunity to exercise, as well as meet new people and have some fun. They leave the class with a feeling of wellbeing and in good humour. The Arts Council’s new funding programme will enable more older people to take part in the arts by funding projects which target their needs and fit their interests.'