Leeds arts in care homes digital inclusion programme

In September 2022 100% Digital Leeds and the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network curated a week-long programme of free creative workshops aimed at care home residents in celebration of The National Day of Arts in Care Homes, a national event that takes place each year.

The programme aims to:

  • highlight the ways that care settings can utilise digital to engage with the city’s arts sector and increase arts participation for care residents.
  • make new and lasting connections between individual care settings and arts organisations in the city.
  • support the improved digital skills and confidence of staff and residents in care settings.
  • support improved arts participation for care audiences.

14 arts organisations hosted a total of 24 workshops over the course of five days. Over 20 locations providing care engaged with the series, with many attending multiple workshops. Some virtual workshops were attended by as many as 10 different care settings. The programme included interactive workshops on music, dance, embroidery, and more, delivered by organisations such as Opera North, Ascendance, and Hyde Park Picture House, incorporating such activities as movement, games, and reminiscence.

“13 residents took part in the workshop with Opera North and described it as ‘different, fun, and informative’. It was easy to join online and we’d be keen to attend similar workshops in the future.”

Seacroft Grange Village

Utilising digital to support arts and culture participation

Participation in the programme enabled arts organisations to engage with audiences in care settings who would find it difficult to visit arts venues by connecting with audiences virtually.

“It was really lovely to be able to deliver a fun, musical session to people we may not otherwise reach – it gave us the opportunity to showcase our offer and engage those who are not able to come and visit us in person, which is great!”

Leeds Libraries

A study on The Impact of Arts and Cultural Engagement on Population Health published by UCL in March of this year explored whether there are differences in how arts participation affects people who engage with in-person arts activities compared to virtual or online activities, with virtual engagement found to be only marginally less effective.

The programme supported care settings in offering residents a range of sessions on different art forms in a relatively short space of time, allowing residents more freedom of choice. Some care settings engaged with five or more workshops over the course of the programme.

“Our Care Home loved the Zoom session today, and we’re going to try the ballet tomorrow!”

Aireview Care Home

The Baring Foundation published report Every Care Home A Creative Home makes the case for residents in care being able to access creativity and culture whenever they want, with content being relevant and person-centred, linked to individuals’ needs, interests, and preferences. The report points out that, ‘realistically, this means access to digital channels and tools.’

Much of the programme was made up of ongoing activity that is available all year round but is not generally accessed by care residents. Taking part in the programme meant that arts organisations could connect with a wider range of care settings to promote their offer. In some instances, partnerships were formed that are ongoing. It helped arts organisations to appreciate the potential for further engagement with care settings should they continue to develop their virtual and digital offers.

“It was good to be involved in a wider event which enabled us to market our provision. We would like to extend our Zoom provision in the future and this work has given us confidence that there is a demand to keep moving forward with our Digital at Home programme.”


Supporting improved digital inclusion for care residents and staff

“Some attention has been paid to the relative lack of digital technology and connectivity in care homes. There is no question that digital tools will become ever more important in a whole series of ways in care homes, including for arts and creativity.”

Baring Foundation, 2022

With growing technological advancements, it is increasingly important that care settings have the access to equipment and connectivity, and staff have the required digital skills and confidence to engage with the digital world. This programme gave care staff the opportunity to develop their skills and confidence and understand the ease and practicality of using digital tools to bring external activity into care settings, thereby supporting the 100% Digital Leeds priority of developing digital inclusion in care home settings.

Each of the workshops in this programme had a digital element with the majority being delivered virtually over Zoom. Poor digital infrastructure in care settings was a barrier to engagement, with some settings struggling to engage and others being unable to engage at all. Some care settings lacked the equipment to engage with the programme and whilst some were able to invest in equipment such as a tablet or HDMI cable, others were not able to. Poor or no connectivity meant some care settings were unable to engage with the programme or to experience the programme fully.

“There were some connectivity issues at two of the care settings and they had to re-join a couple of times and then keep their cameras off, so it was difficult to tell how the session was being received.”

Leeds Libraries

Staff’s digital skills and confidence was also a barrier to engagement. For some it was the first time they had used Zoom to support residents to participate with external programming. While some care settings found joining a virtual session a straightforward process, some did struggle, and more support to develop staff digital skills and confidence is needed.

The initial technical support required to set up the connection to the Zoom session as a barrier for some care staff”

RJC Dance

More support is also needed to improve staff’s and residents’ confidence in engaging with the features of Zoom, such as the Chat function, to get the most out of the session.

“The difficulty in connecting with people watching is that if they did not respond to the chat then it was hard to gauge which parts they were enjoying.  Our experience of the last few years is that this is very dependent on the ability of the person managing the tech at the home. The care settings who logged on stayed right until the end, so they must have enjoyed watching it!”


A small number of workshops were delivered face-to-face in care settings, incorporating digital tools into the session. These sessions appeared to have the most benefit on the digital inclusion of individual care residents as arts practitioners were able to directly engage with individual residents and take a person-centred approach to introducing digital to them.

“Victor hadn’t previously been interested but after talking to him I learned that he was interested in how to watch different channels in his room, so I showed him how to use iPlayer. He really enjoyed watching Frozen Planet 2 with subtitles, as he is hard of hearing. As a result the staff said he would be able to borrow the iPads they have at the home.”

Leeds Libraries, about a resident at Knowle Manor

Plans for 2023

Both care settings and arts organisations are keen for the programme to return this year. The cross-sector steering group has been brought back together to take this forward and launch events are planned for May, coinciding with Creativity and Wellbeing Week, Dementia Action, and Age of Creativity Festival month.

100% Digital Leeds is partnering with Yorkshire Dance and other Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network partners to develop an arts and creativity event for Care Homes Activity Coordinators. This will be a practical and engaging face-to-face session highlighting the offers of the city’s arts organisations and will launch the September programme to care staff.

We will also host a webinar aimed at arts organisations interested in contributing to the programme. This will share key information about the offer and process, including highlighting potential funding opportunities for arts organisations.

“Participants described our workshop as “cheering,” “invigorating,” and “a real tonic. Thank you for championing the use of digital with the elders, I hope this can be a regular initiative in the city.”

RJC Dance

For more information or to get involved with our plans for this year’s programme contact us.