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Author: Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Published on 09 July 2010 04:30 PM

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.

Jointly funded by 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 8th July, 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. Sixteen per cent do not leave their homes more than once a week and 7% never leave their homes¹.

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 pain².

Rosemary Kelly OBE, 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.”

Ken Logue, Programme Executive of The Atlantic Philanthropies' Ageing Programme, said: “Atlantic’s Ageing Programme is ultimately focused on ensuring that our society becomes a place where older people are genuinely included and respected. Older people in Northern Ireland continue to face discrimination and structural barriers to meaningful civic engagement. Our goal in supporting the Arts & Older People Programme is to encourage the arts community to identify and explore new ways of helping older people make their own voices heard. A key element of this Programme will be to harness the potential of the arts to make sure those voices are heard in the debates and discussions about policy which  most affect older people today and in the future.”

Eileen Mc Clory 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 well being 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."

¹ Help the Aged, 2007
² Arts Care research carried out at the Mater Hospital, 2006

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575