Tactile Textiles – learning for the fourth age

Tactile Textiles has been a project in Leicester specifically targeted at older people in residential care and especially those with dementia.

For an older person, the move to a residential care setting usually means leaving familiar surroundings, friends, activities and even pets behind them. When someone has dementia, the impact of change can be even more isolating (80% of people living in a care home have a form of dementia or severe memory problems: Alzheimers Society 2014). This can lead to withdrawal, reduced participation in activities and fewer opportunities to participate, thereby compounding the problems of loneliness and isolation.

Learning for the Fourth Age in Leicester sought to address this issue by working over a sustained period with older people living in care homes and young volunteers drawn from the local community. The project brought them together in the care homes to engage regularly as a group in meaningful and purposeful creative ‘tactile textile’ activities.

Outcomes included:

  • Older people were less isolated
  • Older people were actively involved in their communities with their views and participation valued more highly
  • Older people were engaged in the design and delivery of services that reduced their isolation
  • The service was better planned, co-ordinated and delivered
  • Better evidence is now available to influence the services that reduce isolation in the future.

Our activity had a real focus on ‘bringing the community in’ to the home and introducing topics which provided links to places and events beyond the home. This helped to build bridges between generations and cultures and enabled relationships to flourish. Weekly sessions brought purpose, meaning and pleasure to social interaction and community participation, and dramatically reduced the extent to which isolation from the local community is felt.

A resident commented after one session:

“Thank you, I so enjoyed that. I do look forward to you coming, being here (in the session) feels like I’m in another place; it’s like a trip out.”