How the UK Is Supporting Dementia with Social Prescriptions

Dementia United’s work on social prescribing has been featured in an article published by Next Avenue, a non-profit, digital journalism publication produced in the United States.

The article, written by Elizabeth Hewitt, looks at how the UK is embracing the practice of social prescribing and focuses on initiatives in Greater Manchester.

Social prescribing is an approach that aims to improve individuals’ health by connecting them with community-based groups and activities. Some involve nature and others focus on art, sports or music.

As social creatures’ humans have an inbuilt need to be with others and mounting evidence suggests that staying socially active as we age can help to keep our brains healthy. Alongside staying social, evidence also suggests that remaining physically active and engaging in creative pursuits can also improve the health of our brains.

Experts in brain health and dementia care say social prescribing can help not only by providing programmes targeted specifically at people impacted by dementia but also by making other groups more open to people living with cognitive impairment.

Social prescribing activities can be significant for brain health. It’s a lot about staying social, staying connected, staying active. I think being outdoors is a wonderful way of facilitating that no matter what it is you’re doing. Dr. Sarah Fox, a neuroscientist and Global Brain Health Institute Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health and Research/Academic Advisor for Dementia United.

Dementia United has been working with social prescribers in the Manchester area for some time now and feedback from projects that we’ve supported indicates that the group activities and relationships forged through social programmes have had a positive impact.

One of the projects we funded was the Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale music and arts therapy scheme. The project involved two musicians from the Hallé running 1hr to 2hr sessions for people living with dementia, where they interacted with the musician and conducted the music.  The musicians spent time with each person and played an individual piece of music that was unique to that person, developed from their body language and hand movements. The person with dementia became the ‘conductor’ which was very empowering and very well received by everyone.  The group came together to sing, dance and play percussion instruments.

I will always remember at one of The Willows sessions, there was a gentleman in a wheelchair who didn’t really seem to be engaging at the start of the session, his eyes were shut and his body language was closed. He opened his eyes as soon as the music started and his arms and legs started to move in time to the music. It turned out the he used to be in a band and was a drummer. Dementia advisor, Alzheimer’s Society

It’s those connections and that feeling that there’s that peer support. They’ve had fun and they’ve enjoyed themselves and it just makes such a difference to people. Helen Pratt, Project Manager, Dementia United

You can read the full article here: