Re-imagining the care home: a spatially responsive approach to arts practice with older people in residential care

Nicola Hatton

This paper considers some of the spatial challenges of doing arts projects with older people in care homes, including those living with dementia. It reflects on the author’s own experience of running a performance project with residents with at a care home in North London. Drawing on Lefebvre’s concept of socially produced space, it argues that repetitive and task-oriented nature of caregiving can create particular challenges for artists who are bringing new activities in. However, rather than seeing the routine practices of a care home as a hindrance to creative activity, this paper suggests that an aesthetic engagement with the space itself can support artists and residents to re-imagine care homes as creative spaces in their own right. This argument is illustrated through an analysis of a sound project that took place in a care home dining room. In describing how the author worked with residents to explore the acoustic properties of the space, it suggests some ways in which artists may find inspiration from the care home environment. In particular, it considers the significance of atmosphere when doing arts practice in care homes as something which can create a shared sense of place. The paper concludes by considering the particular contribution of the artist to the culture of care in light of emerging concepts of relationship-centred care. It suggests that an aesthetic engagement with care homes can draw attention to the relational nature of caregiving, and the wider network of spaces that make up a care home environment.

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