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Social prescription and the role of participatory arts programmes for older people with sensory impairments

Nicholas Vogelpoel (Arts and Wellbeing, Sense, London, UK)
Kara Jarrold (Sense, London, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 14 April 2014




The purpose of this paper is to describe the benefits of a social prescribing service for older people with sensory impairments experiencing social isolation. The paper draws on the findings from a 12-week programme run by Sense, a voluntary sector organisation, and illustrates how integrated services, combining arts-based participation and voluntary sector support, can create positive health and wellbeing outcomes for older people.


The research took a mixed-methodological approach, conducting and analysing data from interviews and dynamic observation proformas with facilitators and quantitative psychological wellbeing scores with participants throughout the course of the programme. Observations and case study data were also collected to complement and contextualise the data sets.


The research found that participatory arts programmes can help combat social isolation amongst older people with sensory impairments and can offer an important alliance for social care providers who are required to reach more people under increasing pecuniary pressures. The research also highlights other benefits for health and wellbeing in the group including increased self-confidence, new friendships, increased mental wellbeing and reduced social isolation.

Research limitations/implications

The research was based on a sample size of 12 people with sensory impairments and therefore may lack generalisability. However, similar outcomes for people engaging in participatory arts through social prescription are documented elsewhere in the literature.

Practical implications

The paper includes implications for existing health and social care services and argues that delivering more integrated services that combine health and social care pathways with arts provision have the potential to create social and medical health benefits without being care/support resource heavy.


This paper fulfils a need to understand and develop services that are beneficial to older people who become sensory impaired in later life. This cohort is growing and, at present, there are very few services for this community at high risk of social isolation.



Vogelpoel, N. and Jarrold, K. (2014), "Social prescription and the role of participatory arts programmes for older people with sensory impairments", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 39-50.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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