A new research hub looking at how painting, puppetry, singing and other arts can improve dementia care is coming to Worcester and Nottingham, thanks to an Alzheimer’s Society grant.

‘The Arts and Dementia’ (TAnDEM) doctoral training centre, split 50-50 between the University of Worcester and the University of Nottingham, will support six new PhD students to investigate the impact of creative arts activities on people living with dementia in residential homes and in the community.

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studiesand lead TAnDEM researcher at Worcester said: “Many families and people working in care know the enjoyment and sense of purpose that singing, music, dancing and creating art work can bring to people at all stages of dementia. Through this new research programme, we aim to identify how to use these creative drives for the most benefit to people living with dementia.

“We will investigate how to use creativity to help people feel connected to others and will ask whether particular arts activities are more effective at different stages of dementia. The answers to these questions will have a benefit to people with dementia and their families worldwide.”

Professor Justine Schneider, lead TAnDEM researcher at Nottingham University added: “We know that activity groups can help people with dementia and their carers to stay socially connected and to enjoy a better quality of life, but there has been very little research done to show the value of creative arts activities.

“TAnDEM will train PhD students to develop a strong evidence base for the use of arts in dementia, highlighting which types of activities bring the most benefit and at what stage in the dementia journey, helping to guide the development of future services.”

The doctoral training centre is one of eight new centres across the UK that will explore different areas of dementia research. Collectively they will support 55 new PhD students and clinical research fellows over three years, giving a huge boost to the numbers of researchers working in dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said: “There’s a huge amount of progress being made by the dementia research community but unless we attract and train the best young talent we will limit how quickly we can make ground breaking discoveries. For too long dementia research has been underfunded and as a result we have significantly fewer scientists than other conditions, with six times more people working in cancer than dementia.

“If we’re going to defeat dementia we need to give the best brains the right opportunities and build a research workforce that is fit for the future. That’s why we’re proud to be announcing the largest investment of its kind, which will see £5 million committed to create the next generation of dementia researchers. People with dementia deserve nothing less than an all-out fightback against the condition and our Doctoral Training Centres will help us enlist the right people to lead it.”

The broad research programme will encompass theatre, film, puppetry, singing, painting, as well as visiting art galleries. In addition to generating knowledge about which creative arts bring most benefits for people with dementia, TAnDEM will develop new research methods and tools that will be useful to study other kinds of dementia interventions such as brain training or exercise groups.

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including about 14,000 in Nottinghamshire and 10,000 in Worcestershire. Including the Nottingham-Worcester centre, four of the new research centres will focus on dementia care and services research while the other four will focus on biomedical research to increase understanding of the causes of dementia and accelerate progress towards better treatments and ultimately a cure.

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