In the run up to the BSG 2019 conference, where the BSG Creative Ageing SIG will run their inaugural symposium, we are publishing interviews with the steering committee to share more surrounding our vision and goals for the group.

This interview is with Dr Katherine (Kat) Algar-Skaife, the Representative for Wales on the Creative Ageing SIG steering group. Here, Dr Cathy Bailey finds out more about Kat and her motivations for joining the Creative Ageing SIG.

Tell me about you and your background.

I am a Research Officer based at the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) Wales Research Centre at Bangor University. We have recently launched ‘Ageing and Dementia @ Bangor’ which aims to ensure our research and teaching in the School of Health Sciences promotes the health, quality of life and well-being of older people, people with dementia and their supporters; improves the quality of care and services; and informs policy and practice development. I am also the Bangor Coordinator for the Wales Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research (CADR); co-lead the Creative interventions for older age and dementia care work theme with Professor Gill Windle; and the Wales Coordinator for Join Dementia Research (JDR).  

I am passionate about improving the quality of life and well-being of people living with dementia and those who support them, and in particular through the arts. I have been lucky enough to develop my career at DSDC Wales over the past 10 years and to go on to lead my own research. Much of my research has focused on living well with dementia in care home settings and also brings arts practitioners together with care home staff to challenge stigmatising associations with dementia. My PhD in Ageing and Dementia Studies focussed on the benefits of visual art for people living with dementia in care homes and I then led the evaluation of Age Cymru’s cARTrefu programme and in 2017 launched the report at the National Assembly for Wales. I was also recently the Principal Investigator on the ‘Creative Conversations’ project where we developed an arts-based care home staff development programme to enhance interactions between dementia care staff and residents.

What do you understand by the term ‘creative ageing’?

While working in the field of dementia, and especially in care homes, I have realised how important creativity is for everyone. Most of the projects I have worked on focussed on providing the arts to people living with dementia but we also showed how much those around them (such as care staff, relatives, and the artist practitioners) benefited too.

And it doesn’t have to involve a formal activity – we can all benefit from 5 minutes of creativity, be it through music, visual arts, poetry, and so much more. I therefore understand creative ageing to be benefiting from the arts and creativity at any stage of life.

In terms of the Creative Ageing Special Interest group, I feel that we will be well-placed to contribute a definition of ‘creative ageing’ reflecting the views of all of our members.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the new SIG?

Over the past 10 years, I have seen a real growth of research in arts and dementia although practice has really led the way. My hope for our Creative Ageing SIG is that those involved strive and advocate for high-quality, collaborative working through the intersections between research, policy and practice. Future aspirations include a wide membership that supports an inclusive and grounded, agenda of creative ageing, certainly beyond an ‘Arts and Health’ focus.

What role do you see yourself as playing within the SIG?

As our Representative for Wales, I see my role as ensuring that Welsh organisations and policies are reflected and involved in our activities. I am also keen to make new contacts and to be part of setting the Creative Ageing agenda.

Where might people find out more about some of the work you have done in this field?

I have a Twitter account which I try to keep as updated as possible (@kat_algar) and I’m more than happy for people to get in touch via email (k.algar@bangor.ac.uk).

The cARTrefu evaluation report can be found here.

We have recently published a paper from the Creative Conversations project which is open access:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13607863.2019.1590310

And a more accessible lay summary of the paper can be found here.