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Cambridge University and council team up to tackle isolation

By Ben Comber

The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

A pilot project involving Cambridge City Council's Independent Living Service and the University of Cambridge Museums Consortium, aims to tackle social isolation among people aged 60 or over.

The council was asked to get involved in the project, which is funded by Arts Council England, as part of the consortium’s work as a ‘major partner museum’. The project also involves local organisation, DanceMoves.

So far, three sessions have taken place involving people aged 60 or over from the council’s sheltered housing schemes and members of the 65+ Community Hub, a group that meets monthly for talks and other social activities.

Cllr Kevin Price, executive councillor for housing, said: “We know that loneliness and social isolation can have a major impact on health and wellbeing and that bringing people together can make a big difference.

“This pilot project involving people from our sheltered housing schemes aims to help boost social interaction and support good mental health, by offering the chance to get together, to take part in an interesting cultural experience and enjoy some fun exercise too.

“The University of Cambridge Museums Consortium is to be congratulated for securing funding to run it and I am pleased that the council has been able to get involved. I hope the pilot scheme will be successful enough to broaden it citywide.”

The group of around 15 residents was provided with free transport to the Fitzwilliam Museum and took part in a private, guided viewing of one of the galleries.

They were able to look at particular works of art in detail with a member of the museum’s staff, followed by a group discussion.

The group then moved to one of the museum’s function rooms where, working with DanceMoves, they took part in a movement and music session translating what they had seen and experienced in the galleries into dance.

If the scheme is successful the museum and council will work together to roll it out across Cambridge.

Miranda Stearn, Head of Learning at the Fitzwilliam Museum, said: “It has been a pleasure to be able to work with the council’s Independent Living Service on this project to make sure that people living in Cambridge can take inspiration from the collections whatever their age.

“We want the museum to be a place where people come together, feel connected and enjoy being creative, and this project is helping us try out new ways we can help combat social isolation.”


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