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Group photo from the Age-friendly Cultural Cities Exchange Programme

Using creativity to improve health and wellbeing in later life

An age-friendly cultural exchange in the Netherlands took place, where successes and challenges were shared by colleagues and cultural visits were had.

Emma Riley from Liverpool Museums, tells about what Liverpool shared and how culture plays a crucial role in improving health, wellbeing, independence and quality of life in our later years.

Earlier this year, I took part in the Age-friendly Cultural Cities Exchange Programme with the Netherlands, supported by the Baring Foundation and Netherlands Cultural Participation Fund.

I represented Liverpool alongside colleagues from Liverpool City Council during the exchange. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet UK and international colleagues working on age-friendly cities and communities agenda. Over 40 of us took part, including artists, public health specialists, arts development officers, strategy leads, commissioning officers, museum staff and more.

During the exchange, we shared successes and challenges with colleagues, enjoyed cultural visits to venues and heard from some amazing older people who are producing fantastic art work.

Windmill on a sunny day.
What Liverpool shared

We introduced the Happy Older People (HOP) network and House of Memories programme, both created by National Museums Liverpool, and the wider cultural programme supported by Culture Liverpool – Liverpool City Council’s cultural service.

HOP brings together arts and culture with isolated older people to break down barriers to participation in the Liverpool City Region’s brilliant cultural offer. HOP network membership is diverse and includes arts and culture organisations, health and social care professionals and providers, older people, artists, musicians, housing associations, and community groups.

House of Memories is a museum-led dementia awareness programme which offers training, access to resources, and museum-based activities to enable carers to provide person-centred care for people living with dementia.

Led by Culture Liverpool, our city is fuelled by culture. Since our successful year as Capital of Culture in 2008, Culture Liverpool has continued to develop our world class arts and events offer, using it to drive the regeneration of the whole city. Culture Liverpool’s Arts and Participation Team develop participation programmes and commissions to enhance and animate the major events programme encouraging engagement from all sections of Liverpool’s communities.

Culture Liverpool also manages the Culture, Arts and Investment Programme (CAIP), funding 36 organisations to deliver more than 29,800 cultural activities. Two thirds (66%) of this activity is targeted at specific groups including older adults who engage widely in the city’s cultural offer, with many attending cultural events, activities and participatory projects.

[In Helsinki] age-friendly culture ... is embedded into policy, which makes cultural participation of older people the responsibility of all layers of government.
What we learned

We picked up lots of knowledge from our UK and international colleagues during the exchange visits. Some of the key points to take away were:

  • Meaningful arts and cultural activity can’t always be measured in numbers or figures. Building narratives can be a far more effective way to communicate the impact of age-friendly activity, but we need funders/commissioners to understand this too.
  • Older people are not one homogenous group and there is no such thing as ‘The Older Person’, but a whole range of different experiences. This means that not everyone wants to take part in ‘Knit and Natter’ or play Bingo. Our age-friendly offer should aim to be as diverse as the offer for younger generations.
  • Nationally and internationally we are facing similar challenges including funding, transport, access, infrastructure, communication and digital inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Responsibility for creating a truly age-friendly place lies with all departments, not just culture, or adult social care, or transport etc.
  • Arts and culture should continue to move away from ‘doing to’ older people and embrace active participation and ownership.

We were hugely impressed with the presentation from Helsinki about their approach to age-friendly culture. It is embedded into policy through a law on elderly care which makes cultural participation of older people the responsibility of all layers of government. The law states that longterm care should provide people with a meaningful life, and local authorities are required to draw up a plan for supporting the wellbeing of the ageing population.

As a result of the exchange, colleagues in Liverpool have been filled with inspiration to continue developing our age-friendly city. HOP and Culture Liverpool are working more closely, connecting HOP network members into consultation events and participatory opportunities. The CAIP funding framework will include age-friendly as a priority for the 36 funded organisations and a HOP steering group has been established to enable our members to guide the direction of future activity.

We believe that arts and culture has a critical role in making a city age-friendly.

Improving the age-friendly arts offering for Liverpool remains a priority to increase older people’s health, wellbeing, independence and quality of life.

UK Network of Age-friendly Communities

Read more

Liverpool is a member of the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities.

Age-friendly Liverpool is led by Liverpool City Council. For more information, contact Andrew Durkin.