We are delighted to annouce that City Arts has been awarded £99,980 to develop iPad and Android apps offering bespoke virtual tours of some of the world greatest art collections to older people whose circumstances do not permit physical visits. The Armchair Gallery project is one of five to be awarded a share of £406,231 by Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech for good funder, and The Baring Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for disadvantaged groups.

The app will connect older people with both digital technology and art. It’s designed to be used in safe and supportive settings like care homes and memory cafes [spaces for people with dementia and their loved ones], bringing the world’s best art direct to mobile devices.

Older person using iPad app

An Armchair Gallery pilot project has, to date, supported 250 Nottingham care home residents to access the historic art collections of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, and South East London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery. With support from professional artists, the older people have been creating their own artwork inspired by the collections. Funding from Nominet Trust will support Armchair Gallery to launch the app in cities throughout the UK.

The funding comes from Nominet Trust and The Baring Foundation’s new Digital Arts & Creative Ageing fund which will address widespread social isolation amongst the over 65s, improving health and wellbeing to help older people to live more autonomous and integrated lives. Research from Age UK has found that more than one million over 65s feel “always” or “very” lonely, which can have as damaging an impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Age UK, 2015).

City Arts’ Kate Duncan, who is coordinating the project, explains the motivation behind the app’s development:

“It is a sad fact that when people get older they often become cut off from cultural life – health and mobility issues make visits to cultural institutions a rare occurrence. Armchair Gallery will bring the art to them. We are delighted that Nominet Trust and The Baring Foundation are supporting this work.”

Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust, said:

“With government projections suggesting almost 20% of the UK population will be over 65 by 2024, we need to find new ways to combat loneliness and support those wanting to engage in purposeful activity,” “We’ve seen how digital technology has the ability to enhance the lives and communities of the most vulnerable and isolated members of society.  I look forward to seeing how these five wonderful initiatives enable older people to participate in the joy of creative arts and deliver wide ranging benefits to their health and wellbeing.”

David Cutler, Director, The Baring Foundation, commented:

“The pace of technology is moving faster than ever before, but this new investment fund plays an integral role in making sure the older generation aren’t left behind. These five projects bring creative arts to the over 65s in new and innovative ways, helping to keep them mentally engaged and socially included. We’re really looking forward to working with the teams over the coming months to support their growth and maximise the social impact that they can deliver.”