The programme for Experience 2023: An Introduction to Arts, Health and the Older Person has been announced by Age & Opportunity and Réalta, the National Body for Arts + Health in Ireland.  Taking place on Thursday 7 December at the Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts Centre for Arts + Health, University Hospital Waterford, this is the first time for Experience to take place in person, having been an online learning programme for the last two years.  Designed for arts practitioners interested in this area, over the course of the day, Experience 2023 will aim to outline the essential elements involved in working with older people in an arts and health context, and will feature presentations by some of the most experienced and inspiring practitioners working in this specialised field of practice.  The Keynote Address will be by consultant geriatrician and author of The Book About Getting Older Dr Lucy Pollock.  Further details and booking information from from or email  Places are limited to 20 and cost €20.00 each, including lunch.  The deadline for receipt of expressions of interest is Wednesday 15 November. Experience 2023: An Introduction to Arts, Health and the Older Person is funded by the Arts Council and the HSE.

This is the third year of Experience, which was devised in 2021 in response to the need for more training and practical orientation for arts practitioners who already have experience of participatory work in a health context, and who are interested in developing their practice to include working with older people.  Participants over the last two years have described the programme as “excellent”, “essential”, “uplifting”, “insightful”, “inspiring”, “full of great advice and ideas”, “loads of practical and creative information offered” and “so well put together, beyond what I imagined; learned loads,” with people highlighting the expertise and passion of the speakers, and the opportunity to interact with fellow artists.

In a programme which strives once again to be inspiring and pragmatic, participants will gain an overview of approaches and ways of thinking in this rewarding area of work, practical information and advice for different art forms and disciplines, valuable insight from artists, healthcare professionals and arts + health participants, and opportunities to share ideas and build contacts with their peers.

Keynote speaker Dr Lucy Pollock is a consultant geriatrician and the author of the highly regarded The Book About Getting Older.  The British Geriatrics Society described Lucy’s book as a “warm and compassionate book (which) gets to the heart of older age”, and actor Sandy Toksvig said it was “The most important book about the second half of your life you’ll ever read”.  Lucy’s presentation for Experience 2023 – entitled Medicine for the heart: what matters most for older people – represents an extraordinary opportunity for participants to learn from an empathetic and inspiring practitioner, whose passion for her work and engaging and good-natured style will strike a chord with participants from any discipline.

In addition to Dr Pollock, the exciting line-up of contributors also includes interdisciplinary artist Tess Leak; Age and Opportunity’s Engage Programme Training & Development Facilitator Brian Dooney; Activities Director at Bantry General Hospital Sarah Cairns; healthcare musician and trainer Liam Merriman, dance artist Ailish Claffey, artist Joanna Hopkins, arts programme participant Roger Green, playwright and theatre maker Michelle Read and composer Brian Keegan, with additional contributions from Tara Byrne (Age & Opportunity) and Claire Meaney (Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts).

Announcing details of Experience 2023: An Introduction to Arts, Health and the Older Person, Tara Byrne, Arts Programme Manager with Age & Opportunity, said “We’re very excited to present the ‘Experience’ learning programme in person this year, in partnership with Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, to support artists who wish to develop their participatory arts practice to be more inclusive of working with older people.  Coming from an organisation which advocates increased creative opportunities for older people, it is essential that we support arts practitioners to develop the skills and knowledge to play their part in realising this vision in imaginative and responsive ways.”

Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, added “Our work in arts and health is person-centred and has partnership at its core, so we’re delighted that a number of our healthcare partners specialising in care of the older person, in addition to some of our programme participants and artists, are joining us to share their insight, experience and expertise with arts practitioners coming into this specialised area of work.  It promises to be an inspiring and energising day.  Our sincere thanks to our funders, the Arts Council and the HSE, for their ongoing support.”

Image Credit: From ‘If These Hands Could Sing’, a project with the residents and staff of Mooncoin Nursing Home, Co Kilkenny and musician Liam Merriman, as part of National Arts in Nursing Home Day 2023.  Photo by Vicky Comerford


Additional info:

Places for Experience 2023: An Introduction to Arts, Health & Older People, which takes place on Thursday 7 December, cost €20, and are open to professional arts practitioners with experience/ interest in participatory arts work in a health context.  Places are limited in order to make this a valuable experience for all participants.  Those interested in participating should email by Wed 15 November 2023 at 5pm with the following details:
– Expression of interest: Why you would like to participate in this programme and how it will benefit your practice (50-100 words)
– Summary of participatory work to date (50-100 words)
– Your CV/resume showing your arts practice and arts participation experience

Selected participants will be notified by 22 November and sent the link to complete their booking.


Welcoming Warm Up:
– Liam Merriman, healthcare musician and trainer

Introduction / Setting the Scene:
– Tara Byrne, Arts Programme Manager, Age & Opportunity
– Claire Meaney, Director, Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts

Framing & Inspiring / Presentations by:
– Dr Lucy Pollock, consultant geriatrician and author of The Book About Getting Older
– Tess Leak, interdisciplinary artist, healthcare and community contexts
– Brian Dooney, Engage Programme Training & Development Facilitator with Age & Opportunity
– Sarah Cairns, Activities Director at Bantry General Hospital
– Liam Merriman, Healthcare Musician and Trainer

Practical Workshops with:
– Ailish Claffey, dance artist, choreographer and curator
– Joanna Hopkins, visual artist

Participant Perspective with:
– Roger Green, participant in Art at the Kitchen Table, managed by Waterford Healing Arts
– Maeve Butler, Assistant Director, Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts

Thought for the Road:
– Performance of extract from On A House Like A Fire, by writer-performer Michelle Read and composer Brian Keegan

Programme Partners
– Age & Opportunity
’s vision is for an Ireland where all older people can be more active, more visible, more creative, more connected, more confident more often.  The organisation’s Arts Programme provides opportunities for older people to be more creative more often, to create meaningful participation and representation for all older people in cultural and creative life and to demonstrate and celebrate how creative potential can improve with age.  The programme is based on the annual Bealtaine Festival in May and year round resource and development initiatives designed to support artists, arts participants and arts organisations.

– Réalta, the National Body for Arts + Health in Ireland, shines a light on the transformative and central role the arts play in health.  Réalta’s vision is for the arts to be embedded into healthcare in Ireland.  To this end, Réalta develops and delivers a range of arts and health training programmes for artists, healthcare professionals and arts and health managers; Provides access to information, mentoring and advice; Supports networking of arts and health practitioners; and engages with the HSE and other policy makers to increase understanding and support of arts and health practice.  Core funded by the Arts Council and the HSE, Réalta encompasses the Waterford Healing Arts programme and the national resource website