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Salisbury District Hospital NHS FT

Young at Heart, Creative Time for Older Patients

Young at Heart is a programme of regular creative activities at Salisbury District Hospital, addressing the need to improve the hospital experience of elderly care patients, including patients with dementia.


Haling Power of Art - SDH Pic by Peter Ursem  Young @ Heart-storytelling at SDH. Pic by Peter Ursem

Photos by Peter Ursem


Six weekly sessions, facilitated by arts professionals, benefit some 30 patients each week. The activities relieve boredom and lift patients’ moods. Observations indicate that the activities also have a positive impact on physical and mental wellbeing, sleep and nutrition, experience of pain or anxiety, potentially reduce length of stay, and have a positive effect on staff morale. The programme has been adopted by community hospitals in Shaftesbury and Sherborne.

The Young at Heart programme started in April 2011 with 45-minute sessions on two wards, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It was a conscious decision to schedule the sessions always at the same time, with the intention to make them part of the ward routines. The sessions were regularly reviewed with facilitators and senior nursing staff in the wards. The activities clearly had a positive effect on patients and staff, and from March 2012 the activities were increased to six sessions each week, in four different wards.

Since the start of the programme in April 2011, Young at Heart has delivered 160 ward sessions in the first year, and 240 ward sessions in the second year, and a total of 2000+ patient contacts. Some patients will have taken part in several sessions.

Sometimes the Young at Heart sessions take place in a dayroom. This works well for example in the storytelling sessions, and has an additional benefit that it enables more socialising between patients. When it is practically not possible to get the patients to the dayroom, the artists work in patients bays, or on the bedside.

Participation is monitored through a monitoring form, filled out by the artist or the volunteer, and spontaneous feedback is also noted down on the form. The monitoring forms are also useful in passing information on to the next artists, so they have pre-knowledge about which patients are on the wards, and what activities they enjoy. We have to date not had the resources for a structural research into the impact of the activities. However, the qualitative data collected through the monitoring forms are encouraging. Patients have said:

  • “I’m buzzing. I wish the doctors would see what we are doing.”
  • “I haven’t had this much fun for years!”
  • “You forget all your troubles.”
  • “This is ever so good for my hands. I am doing so much better than 2 weeks ago.”
  • “The exercises do you good, I couldn’t move my hands 5 months ago.”
  • “This has been the best morning in 2 weeks.”
  • “You have done me an absolute world of good. I had a stroke, but through the music I suddenly remembered Porgy & Bess and lots of memory came flooding back to me.”

The main learning points:

  • schedule the sessions with regularity
  • spend sufficient time to liaise with and engage ward staff
  • be persistent
  • give adequate support to the artists


Contact: Maggie Cherry
General Manager


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