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Arts and Health Australia

Chris Poulos

Arts on Prescription for community dwelling older people

This paper describes the design and evaluation protocol for an ‘Arts on Prescription’ program for community dwelling older people in Sydney, NSW. Funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, this project represents a new collaboration between a large aged care provider (HammondCare) and the Faculties of Medicine and Art & Design at the University of New South Wales.

The program is broadly focussed, targeting a range of common conditions in the elderly – frailty, declining physical activity or function, anxiety, depression, mild cognitive impairment, declining sense of wellbeing, social isolation, carer burden and recent bereavement or loss.

Referrals are accepted from general practitioners, allied health professionals, community nurses and pharmacists, or individuals may self-refer with GP support.

Eleven professional artists have been engaged, covering dance and creative movement, visual arts across a range of media, including photography, and music. Artists have already undertaken two and a half days of training on the role of arts in health and ageing, occupational health and safety, and practical strategies for developing and managing programs for older participants. Programs will be delivered to small groups of participants (n=6). Each group will be supported by a personal care worker, enabling artists to focus on the delivery of the artistic program.

The program evaluation (subject to UNSW Ethics Committee approval) will involve before and after measures on participants, utilising previously validated self-report questionnaires on wellness and frailty, and standardised measures of physical function. Objective measures of physical activity during the program will be made on a sub-sample of participants using a wristband activity monitor.

Practical placements for undergraduate art and design students are planned as part of the program, with opportunities for new curriculum development with input from both Faculties, to be considered.

Chris PoulosChris Poulos

Chris Poulos is a rehabilitation physician and the foundation Hammond Chair of Positive Ageing and Care with the University of New South Wales. Before moving into his current role in 2011, he spent many years leading and working in rehabilitation and aged care services for the NSW Health Department. His current passion is helping people to maximise their ageing experience, despite their limitations, by encouraging them to focus on whole person wellness. Chris directs the HammondCare Centre for Positive Ageing and has visited the UK on several occasions to explore Arts in Health models in practice. This year, he is leading a team delivering an Arts on Prescription program funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.