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National Lottery Community Funding Awarded For Our Ageing Creatively Programme

Corn Exchange Newbury has received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund which has enabled it to begin the next five year stage of its Ageing Creatively programme of work, supporting older people across the Berkshire area.

The first stage of the Ageing Creatively programme ran from 2016-19 and supported the needs of older adults through accessible arts and culture projects. It saw regular workshops and classes taking place from the Corn Exchange and its Learning Centre, including sessions for those living with dementia or Parkinson’s, and also saw partnership work with care home settings. This new funding will establish a 5 year programme of work and leave a legacy of creative engagement for older people, particularly those who are rurally or socially isolated.

Led by the Corn Exchange’s Engagement Manager Hannah Elder, a new team dedicated to this area of work has been appointed as a result of this funding. Katy Stevens joins as Ageing Creatively Co-ordinator while two Rural Agents will work in the field with partner organisations and practitioners to deliver sessions and projects. Rachel Coles will focus on the areas in the west of the county while Marcus Lilley will work in the eastern areas of the county, establishing the needs and wants of rural areas to deliver activities tailored for each specific community.

Alongside projects based in rural areas and care settings, the Corn Exchange also hosts Ageing Creatively workshops and courses in its Learning Centre on the Market Place in Newbury. This summer the team has been running monthly Memory Cafés for those living with dementia, their carers and family members, as well as weekly Sunshine and Sewing classes which provide sewing, knitting and crocheting activities for over 55s.

From the autumn, there will be a range of workshops and courses for older people covering activities such as singing, writing, dance, arts and crafts, exercise, and the Touch to See group for those with visual impairments returns.

Katy Griffiths, Director of the Corn Exchange Newbury, says ‘We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for their support of this programme of work with their grant of nearly £339,000 over the 5 year programme. It is proven that taking part in arts and cultural activities on a regular, long term basis helps improve the mental well-being of older people. Ageing Creatively increases access to creative activities for older adults, ensuring our community stays creative, engaged and active in order to continue to live healthy independent lives. Our aim is reduce social isolation and loneliness, and to encourage learning and participating for overall good health.’

Hannah Elder, Engagement Manager, says ‘We are reminded daily of the impact that engaging with the oldest in our community has on their wellbeing. We see the smiles in our Memory Cafe morning and the concentration on the faces of those attending Afternoon Art. From encouraging self-worth to providing something to look forward to, the programme is varied and responsive to the people it aims to serve. We hope to see this impact continue for our ageing community over the next 5 years, and to play a real part locally in championing arts for health and well-being among our elders. A participant summed it up quite simply: “Thank you for helping me to remember that I am important. I should focus on me too.”’

The Ageing Creatively programme also builds on an extremely successful project run by the Corn Exchange during the lockdown in 2020. Contactless Creativity was conceived to reach those who were isolated at home and who were not able to engage with digital content online, or Zoom sessions. Weekly art packs were curated by different local artists over a period of seven months, which were received by over 100 vulnerable adults. Participants ranged from the very elderly who were unable to leave their house, to adults not able to work due to shielding or on long term medication.

Ageing Creatively activities and projects will be delivered in a Covid-secure manner, following all guidelines. Care settings or partner organisations who wish to learn more about ways to work with the Ageing Creatively programme should contact Katy Stevens ([email protected]) or call 01635 582666. To find out more about activities taking place at the Corn Exchange and in the Learning Centre, please visit the Ageing Creatively section of our website.