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Older People & Dementia

Older People

Our impact

For older people and those living with dementia, shared reading groups improve quality of life through cognitive stimulation, social interaction and meaningful engagement each week. 

Carers and care home staff notice that improvements in mood and concentration last long after the group has finished, demonstrating the wider impact of the groups.

“Mondays have taken on a completely new aspect. I’ve got something to look forward to now, for the first time in years.” Care home group member, Jewish Care, London

The need

  • By 2021, 2.2 million over 65s will be housebound or socially isolated (Demos, 2007)
  • 2 in 5 older people in care homes suffer depression
  • Over 820,000 people in the UK live with Alzheimer's and other dementias. Levels of dementia predicted to increase by 62% by 2026 (Alzheimer’s Research UK, 2010).
  • Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion per year: more than cancer and heart disease combined (Alzheimer’s Research UK, 2010).
  • There are 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK. Family carers of people with dementia save the UK over £8 billion a year (The Alzheimer’s Society, 2012).

Our aims

  • To ensure quality literature and our unique shared reading model is accessible to all irrespective of age or health
  • To improve quality of life and care for people living with dementia and their carers
  • To establish shared reading as a non-medical intervention for people with a diagnosis of dementia

‘Residents get so much out of the poetry – it’s not like the other creative stuff we do. Other stuff, like craft and things, well, they get bored and wander off. There’s something about the poetry, I don’t know what it is but they love it.’  - Activities Coordinator, care home, Wirral

Our outcomes

The outcomes of our work align with the government’s national strategy ‘Living well with dementia’ to provide “high quality treatment at whatever stage of the illness and in whatever setting” through:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved levels of concentration
  • Improved recollection
  • Greater levels of social interaction

“Isn’t it funny? We come in with nothing and go out with all these thoughts.”  Reading group member, living with dementia, Devon

Evaluation of our shared reading groups shows:

  • improved mood for 86% of readers
  • greater concentration for 87% of readers
  • increased social interaction for 73%
  • less agitation for 86% of readers

Research: A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia

The conclusions of a six-month quantitative and qualitative study found that:

  • engagement in reading-group activity produced significant reduction in dementia symptom severity
  • interviews with staff indicated a contribution of reading groups to wellbeing

The study also found that short and long-term memory was positively influenced, listening skills were improved and the provision of activity by an external organisation enhanced patient care.

Download the full report here.

Our delivery partners:

Liverpool and North West: Halton Borough Council, Knowsley CCG, Knowsley Council

Wirral: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

London: Barnet London Borough Council

South West: Devon Carers, Wiltshire Council

What else?

Older People and our Volunteering projects: Our volunteering projects in Merseyside and Barnet train volunteers to read with older people in care homes and people with dementia, improving the wellbeing of residents and volunteers alike.

Reader Stories: Halton and Manchester Care Homes

Project Story: Devon Library Memory Groups


Our shared reading groups for people with dementia have been featured in Taking part: activities for people with dementia, a book by the Alzheimer's Society detailing stimulating, enjoyable activities for carers and people with dementia at all stages of the condition, reflecting examples of recent best practice and innovation in dementia care.

A Little, Aloud workshops

These special workshops show you how to share our A Little, Aloud anthology with older people in care environments, producing enriching and enjoyable shared reading sessions and building skills and confidence in those working with older people.

How can I find out more?

Our older people projects are running in Liverpool and Merseyside (with our Merseyside Big Lottery Volunteer Scheme), North London and South West. Visit our 'Where We Work' pages for more information about our work with older people in these regions.

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    Get Into Reading Bupa Pilot Project Evaluation

    In April 2011 The Reader Organisation began delivering a 6 month Reader in Residence pilot within eight Bupa care homes, five in Merseyside and three in London, delivering groups and providing training for staff. Read about the project and its outcomes in this evaluation document.

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    A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia

    This report by CRILS found that a literature-based intervention provided by Get Into Reading produces a significant reduction in dementia symptoms and benefits the quality of life of both the residents and staff-carers, with references to effect on memory, listening and enhanced patient care.

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The Reader Calderstones Mansion House Calderstones Park Liverpool L18 3JB



Registered charity number: 1126806 Registered company number: 0660 7389

If you have any suggestions on how we can enhance The Reader experience for you, please get in touch by filling out our quick form. Thank you.