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, activities 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 work in new contexts and training for care staff.

Pilot Programme and Evaluation 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 externally evaluated to measure the impact and benefits for residents, 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.
  • supports wellbeing and quality of life - providing access to meaningful activities focussed on the arts and supporting person-centred care.
  • supports staff in developing new skills and ideas for activity.

The evaluation also explored potential for future development of Living Voices. We are pleased to share evaluation reporting:

Evaluation documents are available in large print on request.

Living Voices Resources and Tools

If you are working with Living Voices you can download resource packs, handbooks and tools on our resources page.  If you are new to Living Voices look at our sample resource packs, below and consider working with us:

Download Family Resource Pack

Download Days Out and Holidays Resource Pack

"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

"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 Home Activity Coordinator

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

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