For carers

For carers

Sharing poetry and story aloud can:

  • Spark engagement, enjoyment and conversation.
  • Trigger long-cherished memories and inspire creativity
  • Benefit wellbeing
  • Build new and rewarding social connections

Read about Living Voices our partnership with the Scottish Storytelling Centre working with older people and care staff across Scotland using poetry, story and song.

Living Voices - poetry, story and song across Scotland

Living Voices is a national programme developed by the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.  It offers older people, usually in care homes, sessions that use a mix of story, song and poetry to prompt conversation, reminiscence and creative response.  

The Living Voices model was piloted and evaluated across 18 months of delivery in 18 venues in South Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross and Aberdeen City.    Evaluation demonstrated that Living Voices enables older people to engage with the arts and has a number of benefits including the strengthening of social bonds and relationships.   

After a successful pilot we are entering a year of development which will explore sustainable models for delivery, work in new contexts and training for care staff.

Pilot Programme 2012-14

During the pilot programme, poets, storytellers and musicians ran regular interactive sessions with care home residents.  Sessions were supported by a volunteer.

The artist and volunteer, residents and staff would come together each month to share stories, poetry and song - Living Voices is not about performance to passive listeners; its about sharing, participation and interaction.  

The pilot programme was evaluated to measure the impact and benefits for all participants - residents, care home staff, artists and volunteers.  It showed that the Living Voices session model creates a space where residents and staff can engage with each other in new ways in a creative and engaging environment.

Evaluation was launched at a celebration event with the local community in Aberfeldy, Perthshire in July 2014.  We are pleased to share evaluation reporting:

Evaluation documents are available in large print on request.

Supporting wellbeing and quality of life in care homes

"I feel more relaxed [after Living Voices], the days don't feel so long" Care Home Resident

Living Voices is designed to be inclusive of all residents in care homes, and is dementia friendly.  We recommend working with  small groups of between 5 and 10 people, and where possible work with the same people regularly to enable relationship building and personalisation to individual interests and needs.

Evaluation demonstrates that Living Voices is effective in providing access to meaningful high quality creative arts activity.  It also indicates that participants experience benefits to their mood and wellbeing.  Importantly, evaluation shows that Living Voices can support improved social interaction and relationships for care home residents.  All these factors can support quality of life in residential care.

"I find this of terrific value...It's very good, stimulating to be learning new things when you get to this age!" Care Home Resident

Supporting care staff skills and satisfaction

"I thoroughly enjoy the sessions myself, and to see the clients enjoy it with the chatter, smiling faces, laughter and joining in the singing makes you feel warm inside because after all it's for them that this is for." Care Staff

Care staff who have contributed to Living Voices sessions, or taken part in pilot training sessions report involvement is a positive and welcome experience. It enables them to develop new creative skills in a safe, supportive environment working with a professional artist. Living Voices brings benefits to their relationships with residents, assists in understanding of life histories, and other components that support person-centred care.

The Storytellers, Poets and Musicians

"What they valued so much was professionals like us coming in from the outside world...bringing it with us...bringing a fresh perspective..." Living Voices Facilitator

Poets, musicians and storytellers bring a wealth of poems, stories, songs to share with residents, and to encourage them to experiment with their creativity.  Living Voices artists create a high quality and flexible creative experience that responds to participant's needs and feedback in the moment.

Working with professional artists can be a valuable and rewarding experience for care staff, awakening and nurturing skills and creative ideas that support their work with residents.

Find out more about Living Voices

If you work in health and social care, or a related area, and are interested in getting involved or developing Living Voices in your area, please contact livingvoices@spl.org.uk.

What other people are saying about Living Voices

“I enthusiastically commend the work of Living Voices. Poetry, story and song can all help people with dementia to access memories, words and a sense of their own identity. For many years I observed the same effect on my own mother’s dementia.  By singing old songs and familiar tunes with her, my family was able to keep bringing her back to a sense of herself. It’s something I have observed over and over in my work for the charity Playlist for Life. The beneficial effects of music are backed up by a growing body of international research.” Sally Magnusson, broadcaster, author of Where Memories Go: Why dementia changes everything (Two Roads, February 2014), and founder of Playlist for Life

"Absolutely brilliant project that values individuality, creativity and connectedness." Susanna Brook, Wellbeing team for older people, Aberdeen City Council

"RGCP Scotland is very happy to endorse Living Voices.  Using storytelling, poetry and song to engage with groups of older people, some with dementia, is a wonderful idea.  The evaluation and case studies show that it has positive effects on the mood and contentment of many individuals, including reducing agitation, which will improve their quality of life.  Further studies could examine whether medication could be reduced as a result.

There are benefits for carers and staff as well in helping them see residents of care homes as individuals who can make connections with others through responding to stories, poetry and song.  This project acknowledges their own assets and their essential humanity.  We would like to see this programme extended and made available in care homes and settings across Scotland."  John Gilles, Chair of the Royal College of GPs Scotland

IRISS (The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services) recently featured Living Voices as a case study on their Creative Quarter website, where you can read their report and view short films about Living Voices.

Image credits:

Project photos (hands with wedding photograph and table with teapot) provided by storyteller Claire Hewitt.

All other images c. Nigel Lumsden Photography