Welcome to CDAN 2017

We are delighted to be holding our conference in collaboration with MHA, a national provider of care and support for older people. MHA runs care homes, extra care housing, Live at Home services and day centres in 200 areas of the UK. At the heart of MHA’s high quality care is its music therapy team of 19 award winning music therapists who offer some 1,900 residents in 54 specialist dementia care homes regular opportunities to participate in music and song besides working with individual residents. MHA’s commitment to seeking to evidence its music therapy offer extends to supporting an active programme of research including collaboration with Live Music Now’s initiative to establish a Choir in Every Care Home.

Our 6th Creative Dementia Arts Network conference is once again designed to deliver what past delegates have told us is an excellent varied programme that blends research with practice, lectures with workshops and space and time for networking and which, importantly, not only meets the professional development needs of specialist practitioners and many others working in arts and dementia but is also a highly informative event for those with a professional or personal interest in arts and/or dementia.

Our conference programme enables those attending to

  • Learn about the latest developments in research, policy and practice in arts, dance and music for people with dementia
  • Gain insights into engaging people with dementia to participate in arts, dance and music and successful programming arts, health and social care
  • Take action by using knowledge gained to promote innovation and change and increase opportunities for people with dementia to engage in the arts at local level

This year we are fortunate to have Ming Hung Hsu, Lead Music Therapist, MHA, as our keynote speaker whose presentation about music and dementia will draw on both his extensive practice and his doctoral study.

Delegates will once again to be able choose from a range of high quality workshops in fine arts, digital arts, music, singing, dance, poetry, creative writing, film led by experienced practitioners who are recognised champions for arts and dementia.

Besides showcasing best practice, this year’s conference asks the question – what needs to change in order that creative arts approaches and therapies, that we know work for people with dementia, become mainstream provision?

Social prescription offers one way of achieving this goal but bolder and more imaginative commissioning is called for. Our second keynote is a forum led by Alex Coulter, Director of Arts and Health South West who provided the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Arts, Health and Wellbeing, with the pioneering Rotherham Social Prescribing Service and the author and founder of John’s Campaign, Nicci Gerrard, will reflect on her experience of changing NHS processes and systems in the aftermath of the death of her father who had dementia.

This conference will be of particular interest to

  • Arts, dance and music therapists, community arts practitioners, arts organisations and arts venues
  • NHS staff including Clinical Commissioners, General Practitioners, Clinical Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Nurses and care staff
  • Local council staff including commissioners, managers, arts and culture officers
  • Care Providers including voluntary organisations, care homes, extra care housing, day centres and support services for people with dementia living at home.
  • Academics, researchers and students especially those on professional arts courses
  • Other professionals with an interest in arts and dementia including government agencies and journalists
  • People with dementia, family members and friends – many of our masterclasses and workshops are interactive and leaders will take account of your needs. We also have quiet spaces available which can help you pace your involvement throughout the day.
  • NB Besides staff, volunteers are particularly welcome

Why the arts for dementia?

Life is better when we have something to get up for, something to do or something to look forward to doing. Arts won’t get us up or get us dressed but it does offer many different opportunities for remaining active, busy and fulfilled including

  • Going to a local cinema or theatre offering a dementia friendly screening or show in a way that takes into account the disabilities associated with dementia. This reduces the barriers to joining in, having fun and socialising with others
  • Participation in a choir where, often despite dementia, those affected recall the words of songs and where companionships, a sense of achievement and sheer pleasure are amongst the positive outcomes
  • Encouragement to quietly doodle with an artist at a museum, in a gallery or in a care setting, focusing on the experience of making marks in a situation where there is no pressure, can help rebuild self-esteem and confidence that are often undermined by dementia
  • A one to one music therapy session designed to enable an older care home resident with dementia to respond to sound and rhythm offers a precious opportunity to experience joy and often reduces anxiety and lowers stress engendered by dementia

We now know from research studies that these examples show arts ‘work’. Not only do they promote social contact when dementia makes for progressive difficulties in maintaining social relationships, but that they offer a wealth of psychological and physical benefits for those living with dementia.

Evidence for various arts forms show that they can

  • Boost self-identity
  • Enhance self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduce stress
  • Lift low mood
  • Increase concentration and spatial awareness
  • Promote well being
  • Encourage exercise
  • Prevent falls

Growing evidence of the effectiveness of arts for dementia mean more and more artists, singers, musicians, actors and writers have begun to use arts to engage with people with dementia. Choirs, dance workshops, and arts groups are flourishing and therapeutic work is increasing whilst museums and galleries have discovered large untapped audiences and visitors.

There are several drivers for this upsurge in interest and the development of what is now a growing community of practice. The recent shift in public perception of dementia has occurred at the end of 30 years in which the construction of dementia as an incurable disease (medical model) shifted in favour of a person centred approach alongside understanding dementia as a disability that can be addressed through changing other systems that impact on the capacity of the individual to manage their experience. Government policy with its emphasis on living well with dementia and development of dementia friendly communities has also improved how dementia is regarded.

However in the absence of a cure and with populations continuing to age, prevalence of dementia is increasing. Globally some 47 million people are estimated to have dementia and this population is forecast to treble by mid-century. In the UK by 2050, it is estimated that 1.5 million people will be living with dementia an increase of 76% on the estimated total of 850,000 reported in 2016.

In the face of this challenge, dementia will continue to be major public health priority. Individuals, families, health and social care will struggle to meet increased demand for support. The arts may not be the answer but they can make a difference to people living with dementia and become part of the solution.

Come to CDAN’s conference to learn about best practice or improve what you do and help to grow our important network.


CDAN is very grateful to MHA for sponsoring our 6th Conference offering our delegates a unique opportunity to engage with MHA's outstanding music therapy service during the conference keynote and workshops led by MHA music therapists.