Creativity and Older People’s Network Wales



Image: Forget-me-not Chorus

After attending an inspirational roundtable event last Autumn organised by Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manager at Age Cymru, we have worked together to establish a new Wales-wide network for artists, arts organisations, health and social care partners who are specifically interested in creativity and older people. 

Many readers will be familiar with the highly successful cARTrefu project that Age Cymru established in 2015, funded by Arts Council Wales and the Baring Foundation. cARTrefu, which has become the largest project of its kind in Europe, aims to improve access to quality arts experiences for older people in residential carcARTrefue, and develop artist’s and care home workers’ skills in running these sessions.

Kelly has worked with colleagues across Europe to develop the field of creativity for older people and we invited guest speakers from AILI in Finland to meet with our new Wales network last October, which was inspirational. 

We have now formed a group that will meet every quarter. Chaired by Tanio, one of the member organisations, we are looking forward to the next meeting on 16th May to meet our invited guest Valerie Billingham. 

Valerie Billingham is the Health and Care Lead for the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales. Valerie previously worked in Age Cymru, and has previously attended a policy panel discussion Age Cymru held on arts in care homes in 2022. 

During the meeting we will learn more about the Older People’s Commissioner’s priorities as well as having an opportunity to share the work that we’re doing with her. 

In 2017 Age UK developed an Index of Wellbeing specifically for older people (age 60+). This identified 4 key factors of wellbeing in later life: 

1. Participation in enjoyable, meaningful activities was the biggest direct factor for wellbeing. This could be in creative, cultural, civic, and/or social activities.

2. Physical activity is extremely important too – this is the 2nd biggest individual direct factor.

3. Support for older people who are informal carers is very important – a little bit of caring responsibility can be good for feeling useful and valued, but too much can be bad for one’s wellbeing (and health).

4. Having positive social interactions with others is common thread throughout wellbeing. In fact, the social domain accounts for 33% of one’s wellbeing.

The following year,  Age UK produced a report Creative and Cultural Activities and Wellbeing in Later Life (2018), which evidenced how creative and cultural participation specifically supports wellbeing for older people. They asked  ‘what makes later life worth living?’ and the most important factor identified from the research was having ‘meaningful engagement with the world around you.’ 

Creative and cultural participation was ‘the single factor that contributed the most out of all 40 of the factors’ the researchers found to significantly contribute to wellbeing. 

With a rapidly ageing population in Wales, a trend reflected across the world, ensuring that we secure the cultural rights for older people in order to support higher levels of wellbeing is crucial. 

The latest estimates given in Understanding Wales’ Ageing Population: Key Statistics (November 2022) show that there are 866,006 people over the age of 60 living in Wales. This number is estimated to rise to 956,000 (30% of the population) by 2026, and to 1,015,000 (31% of the population) by 2031.


If you have an interest in this area and would like to join the network to continue to build on the work that Age Cymru has pioneered, please contact Tracy Breathnach, WAHWN Programme Manager

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