Women’s group at the Highfields Centre in Leicester, who were part of the research

Maybe when people know that music is like medicine then their perception of it will change.

Broadcaster working with people with dementia

This week, we're publishing new research into arts, dementia and the UK's South Asian communities. It shows that while there is growing awareness of the value of artistic activity for people living with dementia, it has not reached the UK's South Asian communities in any significant way.

The research was funded by the Baring Foundation and conducted with Elizabeth Lynch MBE. It was prompted by the observation that our interactive shows for people living with dementia, Open Upon a Time (2011) and The Garden (2015) were struggling to reach a South Asian audience. 

We then conducted interviews with more than 100 people from eight South Asian community groups, including people living with dementia and carers. These showed an urgent need for a more culturally appropriate approach. 

Key findings include:

  • Lower levels of awareness and higher levels of stigma about dementia in ethnically diverse communities, despite an ever-increasing number of older people living with dementia. 
  • The need for funders to work better with specialist organisations to connect with ethnically diverse communities, to share the opportunities and benefits the arts can bring to the dementia care landscape. 
  • Smarter cross-sector working by arts and culture organisations to ensure consultation and connection with South Asian communities. 
  • To work with more South Asian diaspora artists and broaden the stories we tell about dementia to involve the people who are living them. 

The research informed Love Unspoken (2019), the third in our triology of dementia shows. Produced in an association with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, it was created with involvement from the Havering Asian Social Welfare Association and addressed the issues raised by the report. It returns for a run at Tara Arts from May 12 to 16 2020. 

Reaching all sections of the older population – in particular those most marginalised – might be seen as ‘unfinished business’ for the creative ageing sector. We hope that this important piece of research will be a useful resource for arts organisations and arts funders to work with communities to share the benefits that arts can bring to people living with dementia more widely.

David Cutler, Director, Baring Foundation