Health, Education and the Arts come together to Improve life for Older People in Healthcare in West Cork

SPEAKERS: l-r Justine Foster, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Ann O'Connor. Arts Participation Advisor Arts Council, Gabrielle O'Keeffe, Head of Social Care, Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare,Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly TD, Theresa Healy Kingston Acting Director of Nursing Dunmanway Community Hospital, The Mayor of County Cork Declan Hurley Cllr.

The Arts for Health Partnership Programme celebrated the launch of their ground-breaking arts and health strategy recently at Dunmanway Community Hospital with an array of eminent guest speakers and the screening of a short film made by residents of Bantry General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Ward during the programme.

The inter-agency Arts for Health Partnership Programme provides year round cultural and creative opportunities for residents of Community Hospitals and Day Care Centre service users across West Cork. Since 2005 the Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork Education and Training Board, and Cork County Council have worked together to realise this model programme.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly TD remarked, “It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to launch this programme. It greatly assists me with one of the biggest challenges that I face as Minister for Mental Health and Older people. We know now that we have become very successful in adding years to life in so many cases. Now the challenge is to add life to those years. This strategy to involve arts as part of the solution to many health and well-being issues is a most welcome development.” 

Ann O’Connor, Arts and Health Advisor to the Arts Council of Ireland commended the West Cork Arts Centre for its vital role in coordinating the programme, “in particular the work of Programme Manager, Justine Foster who also supports the artists in the delivery of the programme and in their wider practice. Also important to note is the programme has access to many skilled artists who have developed a high level of expertise in working with older people.”

The three-year strategy sets out to increase choice and accessibility within the programme, improve communications, and ensure the current quality provision is maintained. It provides an inclusive way of working that supports people living with dementia, as it is estimated that there are 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia and in-line with Ireland’s rapidly ageing population, that number is predicted to rise significantly.

“The transition from living at home to living in a residential centre for older people is one of the most challenging life changes that any of us will experience.  The Arts for Health programme in this setting provides an opportunity for self-expression and autonomy for residents which the HSE is pleased to support as part of the social model of care”, described Gabrielle O’Keeffe, Head of Social Care, Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare.

Director of Nursing, Theresa Healy Kingston from Dunmanway Community Hospital says the real evidence of the programme’s success is in the hospital wards. ‘The Arts for Health Partnership Programme clearly hits its aim of enabling choice, social inclusion and equitable access to arts for older people in West Cork. It can be seen in the wards enhancing the mood of our residents, helping them socially, emotionally in their physical and mental wellbeing.’

Of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme, Mayor of Cork County, Declan Hurley Cllr congratulated all involved. “Long may the good work continue. There is great pride for west Cork to have initiated this nationally recognised local partnership programme, credited as a model of excellence.”

To illustrate the workings of the programme, a new website has also been launched. The website gives easy access to information about the events, projects, and learning opportunities that make up the Arts for Health Partnership Programme.

The full strategy is available to view on the new website The short film screened ‘Poem Film’ made with artist Colm Rooney and Tess Leak can also be seen on the website.