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Dementia and Imagination: a mixed-methods protocol for arts and science research
  1. Gill Windle1,
  2. Andrew Newman2,
  3. Vanessa Burholt3,
  4. Bob Woods1,
  5. Dave O'Brien4,
  6. Michael Baber5,
  7. Barry Hounsome6,
  8. Clive Parkinson7,
  9. Victoria Tischler8
  1. 1Dementia Services Development Centre, School of Healthcare Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK
  2. 2International Centre for Media, Culture and Heritage, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Department of Gerontology, Centre for Innovative Ageing, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  4. 4Cultural Policy, Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
  5. 5Age Watch, London, UK
  6. 6Biostatistics Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London, London, UK
  7. 7Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
  8. 8University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gill Windle; g.windle{at}


Introduction Dementia and Imagination is a multidisciplinary research collaboration bringing together arts and science to address current evidence limitations around the benefits of visual art activities in dementia care. The research questions ask: Can art improve quality of life and well-being? If it does make a difference, how does it do this—and why? Does it have wider social and community benefits?

Methods and analysis This mixed-methods study recruits participants from residential care homes, National Health Service (NHS) wards and communities in England and Wales. A visual art intervention is developed and delivered as 1×2-hour weekly group session for 3 months in care and community settings to N=100 people living with dementia. Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at 3 time points to examine the impact on their quality of life, and the perceptions of those who care for them (N=100 family and professional carers). Repeated-measures systematic observations of well-being are obtained during the intervention (intervention vs control condition). The health economics component conducts a social return on investment evaluation of the intervention. Qualitative data are collected at 3 time points (n=35 carers/staff and n=35 people living with dementia) to explore changes in social connectedness. Self-reported outcomes of the intervention delivery are obtained (n=100). Focus groups with intervention participants (n=40) explore perceptions of impact. Social network analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from arts and healthcare professionals (N=100) examines changes in perceptions and practice.

Ethics and dissemination The study is approved by North Wales Research Ethics Committee—West. A range of activities will share the research findings, including international and national academic conferences, quarterly newsletters and the project website. Public engagement projects will target a broad range of stakeholders. Policy and practice summaries will be developed. The visual art intervention protocol will be developed as a freely available practitioners guide.

  • quality of life
  • mixed-methods
  • multi-disciplinary
  • arts and health

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Contributors GW is the principle investigator, and led the writing of the study protocol and this manuscript. VB, AN, BW, MB, DO and VT are co-investigators. All investigators developed their respective work packages (see online supplementary appendix 1) and commented on drafts. BH has left the study but contributed to the development of health economics work package.

  • Funding Dementia and Imagination was funded as ‘Dementia and imagination: connecting communities and developing well-being through socially engaged visual arts practice’, grant ref: AH/K00333X/1, by the AHRC and ESRC as a part of the Cross-Council Connected Communities Programme. (principal investigator GW; co-investigators AN, CP, VB, MB, VT, BH, DO, BW, RT Edwards). Many thanks to BH for his role as co-investigator in the first year. Regional and national collaborating partners in Dementia and Imagination: Age Watch, Alzheimer's Society, the Arts Council of Wales, Denbighshire County Council, Engage Cymru, Derbyshire Community Health Service, Equal Arts, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and Nottingham Contemporary.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval North Wales Research Ethics Committee—West.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.