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 programme with the Scottish Storytelling Centre taking poetry and story to care homes across Scotland.

Living Voices

Poetry, stories and song across Scotland

“Absolutely brilliant project that values individuality, creativity and connectedness”  Susanna Brook, The Wellbeing Team for Older People, Aberdeen City Council 

‘Living Voices’ is a national pilot programme by the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre.  Poets, storytellers and musicians have been running regular interactive sessions with care home residents in Aberdeen, Perth and Kinross and South Ayrshire.  Sessions are supported by a volunteer.

Living Voices creates a space where residents and staff can engage with each other in new ways, in a creative and engaging environment.   In participative, 90 minute long sessions, the artist and volunteer, residents and care staff come together to share stories, poetry and song - Living Voices is not about performance to passive listeners, it is about sharing, participation and interaction.  We recognise the value and importance of active participation in the arts to benefit wellbeing.

Pilot Evaluation

We have been working with in three local authority regions to pilot the Living Voices programme, Aberdeen, Perth and Kinross and South Ayrshire.  Artists have worked in six care homes, or other care settings in each region for a period of 18 months. 

The pilot programme has been evaluated to measure the impact and benefits for all participants - residents, care home staff, artists and volunteers.

Evaluation was launched at a celebration event with the local community in Aberdfeldy, Perthshire in July 2014. 

After a successful pilot period we are pleased to share our evaluation, which demonstrates the power, and future potential, of the Living Voices Model:

The 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 work with small groups of between 5 and 15 people, and where possible work with the same people every month 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 experiences 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 contribute to Living Voices sessions report involvement is a very positive and welcome experience. It enables them to develop new creative skills in a safe, supportive environment working with a professional artist. Further 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 taste of the outside world into the care home, something very valuable for residents who may not be able to go outside the home to access arts and culture any more.  They bring a wealth of poems, stories, songs to share with residents, and use facilitation skills to encourage residents to share their stories, poems and songs; or 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.

That's not the only reason artists are at the centre of the Living Voices model.  Working closely with professional artists can also be a valuable and rewarding experience for care staff, awakening and nurturing skills and creative ideas that support their work with residents, and helping to enrich activities across the care home.

The Future

After a successful pilot programme, we now plan to develop Living Voices into a sustained programme, including the potential to expand our work to other regions of Scotland.  We are also exploring the development of training for care staff and artists.

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

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

"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