Case study: Culture Café
RAMM joins forces with Age UK to provide and interactive experience for elderly people, called Culture Café, in order to improve their wellbeing.
Isolation and loneliness are the main reasons that older people become excluded from the rest of society. Almost 1 million older people in the United Kingdom are socially isolated, according to Age UK, and this has a serious impact on quality of life. The charity’s 2011 Loneliness and Isolation Evidence Review states: “Tackling social isolation and loneliness is not currently a priority for service providers, but is vital if we are to end social exclusion.”
Many museums use objects to spark conversations and memories or to inspire creativity, and research by organisations such as the Happy Museum Project and Newcastle University shows this kind of activity can improve people’s wellbeing. It provides social interaction and refreshing stimulation. The focus on the moment often provides a welcome respite from the stresses of daily life, and the impact on happiness can last for some time beyond the session itself.
RAMM has worked with Age UK on numerous projects over many years. The museum values opportunities to take its collections and curatorial passion to an audience it could not reach without this partnership.
Around 145 older people attended bite-sized object-handling sessions involving curators, conversations, company and cake. RAMM provided the informal sessions in an elegant venue over six weeks in 2012, with a view to reducing isolation for older people – some with dementia – and their carers.
The Culture Café provided fun, purposeful activity which was good for participants’ wellbeing in many ways. It led to new friendships and re-ignited old friendships, so that isolation for the participants and their carers was reduced over the time of the project. As well as the social impact, the project demonstrated that it is possible to carry on learning and expanding your horizons throughout your life, whatever your age. Some participants rediscovered RAMM as a safe and welcoming place they felt able to return to – alone, or with friends and family.
What did people say?
“It’s the first time I’ve been into Exeter town centre for 12 years. My neighbours don’t talk to me. I’m on my own at home. It’s nice to have a chat with people here. Everyone’s been so lovely.”
“I haven’t been to the museum for a long time, not since it reopened. I hope to come and visit now I know I don’t have to use stairs to get to see things.”
“Warm, satisfying, beautiful, comforting atmosphere, welcoming, healthy”
“Learning about topics I wouldn’t have thought about”
The project worked well and could be extended or repeated with very few changes. RAMM and Age UK initially thought the project might be able to continue with enthusiastic group members and volunteers running sessions themselves. However, participants’ poor health and lack of transport meant they were unable to do as much as they had hoped, and the project came to an end.
RAMM continues to work with Age UK and has piloted a series of outreach sessions to older gentlemen.
For further information
Please contact Kate Osborne, Learning and Skills Officer, RAMM