Colouring book helps older patients to make creative connections

A new activities and colouring booklet has been published to help support older patients, including those living with dementia, in Oxford Health community hospitals.

Colouring book helps older patients to make creative connections

Creative Connections: Things to Do was dreamt up after hospital ward staff said that lack of visitors had been especially difficult for older patients with dementia.

In Oxfordshire hospitals patients, families and staff are fortunate in being able to take part in the award winning Oxford Health Creating with Care arts programme led by Angela Conlan and the Artlink arts and music programme at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust coordinated by Ruth Charity.

Ruth and Angela were joined by Maria Pasiecznik Parsons, Chief Executive of Creative Dementia Arts Network (CDAN) and they set about putting together the booklet.

Full of beautiful illustrations by local artists, poems, a crossword, and a quiz, the booklet provides patients with opportunities for reading poetry, testing their local knowledge and colouring, besides promoting reminiscence and triggering pleasant memories of being out in nature in Oxfordshire.

Arts and music are important to individuals and society but they also have an important role in improving the health and wellbeing of people who are ill. Research shows participating in arts and music lifts mood, reduces anxiety and stress and boosts self-confidence and concentration.

In spring 2020, Ruth and Angela began work with Maria Pasiecznik Parsons, Chief Executive of Creative Dementia Arts Network (CDAN) on a Creative Connections, a new programme of arts and music for older patients, particularly those with dementia.

COVID restrictions resulted in an embargo of all hospital visitors, including artists and musicians. So, Artlink, Creating with Care, and CDAN adapted their programmes, producing activities packs and running arts lessons, online music sessions and organising outdoor concerts.

Oxford Hospitals Charity, Oxford Health Charity, and Oxford’s St Michael’s and All Saints Charity contributed to the costs of designing and printing the booklet.

1000 copies were made available in Oxford Health’s community hospitals giving patients something different to do and be creative as well as giving them an opportunity for something else to focus on.

Angela Conlan said: “It doesn’t matter what someone’s cognitive ability is. If you can find something in the book that interests the patient and can be talked about, this allows for creativeness to flow and overall entertainment.

“It has been a real joy working on this project and being involved with all of the different teams. I hope more people continue to benefit from these colouring books in the future.”

Ruth Charity reported that the booklets had been really well received by older patients across OUH hospitals, and are used on dementia trolleys on Geratology wards.

She said: “Staff have said how useful the booklets have been for older patients, providing prompts for conversation and much needed distraction. Many older patients feel disorientated when away from home; when they are absorbed and engaged their stress and anxiety levels are reduced.

“This project has been such a positive opportunity to share expertise across different organisations, and provide much needed support for older patients at a difficult time.”


Maria Parsons said: “If you design for dementia you design for everyone!

“It’s been a really exciting working with ward staff on this project. They know the difference that participatory arts make to patients and helped us with early ideas, commenting on drafts, and then sharing the booklet with older frailer patients and giving us feedback.

“We are delighted to hear how Creative Connections: Things to Do brought joy to so many Oxfordshire hospital patients during difficult and worrying times.”

There are current discussions about developing a second booklet which, it is hoped, can continue to be used across community hospitals and further afield.

If you are interested in a copy of this activities book please contact

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Published: 19 July 2021