Armchair Gallery – get creative in isolation with our free app

Date published: 26 Mar 2020

Posted by: Joe Pick

Armchair Gallery Logo

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The coronavirus crisis is bringing isolation and social distancing to us all. But for many of the country’s older people this experience is not new. In England, more than 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone. Research from Age UK suggests that over a million older people go for over a month at a time without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member (Source: NHS).

Isolation leads to poor mental health and art offers a way to combat this. Evidence shows that taking part in the arts – being creative – brings a wealth of benefits to older people lives. These include:

  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • The ability to embrace new and positive aspects of their life
  • Improved relationships with the people that care for them

For older people living with dementia taking part in art activities has been shown to improve cognitive functioning, communication, self-esteem, pleasure, enjoyment of life, memory and creative thinking (Source: Mental Health Foundation).

For many years, City Arts has worked to improve older people’s lives through the arts. In 2018, we launched Armchair Gallery – a free app that allows older people, and those who support them, to enjoy the life changing benefits of art. In this era of lockdown and mass isolation it feels even more relevant than before.

About the app

With special features for people living with dementia, Armchair Gallery brings world-class art & culture into your home. The app is free. It is available for iPad and Android Tablets.

The app features items from the collections of world-class museums and galleries including Chatsworth House, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Lowry, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Pitt Rivers Museum, Mr Straw’s House & Newstead Abbey.

Sceenshot of the Chatsworth House section of the app
Chatsworth House on Armchair Gallery

For each venue you can enjoy a video tour, an expert talk about some of the artworks and artefacts they display, and playable activities that let you engage with those artefacts. You can colour a Canaletto, create your own Hepworth, take a selfie with Lowry and much, much more.

Screenshot of playable activity on the Armchair Gallery app
Creating a Barbara Hepworth inspired sculpture with the app

Armchair Gallery can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Whilst the app is designed for older people, anyone can use and enjoy it. Perhaps try it with your children!

Activities to run with the people you care for

The app includes detailed and comprehensive instructions for doing tried-and-tested creative activities with the people you care for. These were designed with artist Claire Ford. They are informed by years of experience working in with older people, both in care homes and the community. If you work in care, or are looking after an elderly relative, we recommend you check them out.

Here’s how to access them. You must be connected to the internet.

Accessing the activity instructions in Armchair Gallery

  1. Tap the Armchair Gallery icon

    From the main menu, tap the blue menu icon and enter the ‘Content Explorer’ section of the app.Armchair Gallery Main Menu

  2. Select a venue

    In the ‘Content Explorer’, tap the venue you want to take inspiration from.Armchair Gallery app's 'Content Explorer'

  3. Select an artwork/artefact

    Tap the artwork that you want to run an activity based on.Choosing an artefect in the Armchair Gallery 'Content Explorer'

  4. Choose ‘How to’ from the list of options

    Tap the button to access the instruction.Options in the 'Content Explorer'

  5. Follow the steps

    Follow the step-by-step guide with the person you are supporting. We recommend doing this in advance of the activity, so you have time to prepare and gather materials.Activity instructions in the Armchair Gallery app

Not got a tablet?

We recognise that not everyone has access to an iPad or Android tablet, so we have uploaded the instructional videos from our ‘How to’ guides to our Youtube channel. The activities are inspired by the artworks featured on the app. There’s a playlist embedded below.

If you are ordering from Amazon, please consider using and selecting ‘City Arts (Nottingham) Ltd’ as your supported charity.

Other things to try

The arts world has really stepped up to the challenge that the COVID-19 crisis presents. The internet is awash with ideas, activities and live streamed events that will let us enjoy the benefits of art from the safety of isolation.

The Baring Foundation, who along with the Social Tech Trust, funded the development of our app, have put together an ever growing list of activities for older people in isolation.

We are lots of different activities and online content through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Our Young Producers are sharing creative activities on Instagram.


Support the work of City Arts with a contribution to our costs.

The work we do to inspire creativity changes lives. We bring creativity into overlooked and undervalued communities. We offer opportunities for self-expression to people otherwise denied them. This is only possible with the kind support of our donors and funders. Your one-off donation will directly support this work.