Gateshead charity visited by representatives of the South Korean government

An arts agency from South Korea arrived in Gateshead to find out more about the region's Equal Arts' schemes for older people

Members of HenPower, run by Gateshead charity Equal Arts
Members of HenPower, run by Gateshead charity Equal Arts

The charity behind HenPower, the project that helps pensioners overcome social isolation, is now sharing its innovative ideas with the South Korean government.

Staff from Equal Arts, which is based in Gateshead , met with policy-makers from the Asian nation so they could see how they work with older people who have dementia.

Their projects include the £1m Lottery-funded HenPower scheme, which gives hens to older people for them to look after to reduce depression and loneliness, and Creativity Matters, a five-year project which sees older, active volunteers engage in movement and musical sessions with those living in care settings.

Representatives for the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service (KACES) met with staff, residents and artists at the Shadon House dementia assessment centre in Gateshead to see first-hand the impact musical and visual arts sessions are having with residents and care staff.

They then travelled to Winton Court, an extra care setting in Birtley, which gives support to those living independently.

Douglas Hunter, Equal Arts director, said: “We provide creative opportunities with older people while supporting care staff, the culture sector and health authorities to improve the well-being of residents in the North East.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised internationally for what we are all achieving here in the region where we are seeing the impact the arts can have on an individual’s health.

“There is mounting evidence people living with dementia retain their creativity as other cognitive functions diminish and there is a huge benefit in providing creative care, which should be seen as a vital part of someone’s care instead of an add-on to physical care.”

The purpose of the visit from the South Korean arts agency is to influence policy-makers and the public in South Korea to show how the arts can successfully be used to help improve the wellbeing of older people.

Visitor Semi Park, who works for KACES, said: “Equal Arts programmes not only bring together older people who otherwise may feel isolated, but also is clearly successful in encouraging them to be as creative as young people. The sessions run by Equal Arts are something that those engaged in the similar programmes in South Korea should know about.”

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