AN innovative art project designed to bring together older people from across the Tees Valley and tackle social isolation is proving to be a huge success.

Celebrating Age, a project managed by MIMA and delivered in partnership with social housing group Thirteen,takes place within sheltered accommodation developments to encourage the creative engagement of people over-55.

To mark the first stage of the project, a special celebration event was held to bring all participants, artists, local agencies and partners together to show off the artwork and share experiences.

Jenny Brereton, customer engagement co-ordinator at Thirteen worked on the project with staff from the company’s supported living team. She said: “Forty-five residents from Thirteen’s sheltered and extra care developments have been working hard to produce some really lovely artwork.

“People have made all sorts of arts and crafts including paintings, poetry, pottery and textiles which are being displayed at our sheltered accommodation buildings. It was really nice to see everyone come together at the celebration to display their work.”

As well as producing artwork, another of the project’s main aims is to tackle social isolation among older people and the programme has succeeded in bringing residents together to share art resources and ideas, chat and make new friends.

Isabella Smith, project lead and assistant learning curator at MIMA, said: “This project is supported by the Arts Council’s Celebrating Age fund and uses creative activities to encourage older people to overcome loneliness and all the negative impacts that can have.

“It’s been great to see how so many people have been so enthusiastically involved.

"The most rewarding bits for me have been getting to know the groups, they are such a great bunch of people. The more I have got to know them, the more I have got out of it."

Dave Budd, Mayor of Middlesbrough said: “Isolation is one of the most difficult things for people of any age to cope with as it’s often hidden. But there are a number of different ways, including art and culture, to get people involved in their local community.

“What stands out most in this project is people’s enthusiasm. The chance for people to interact with others and learn a new skill can be completely life changing.”

One amateur artist is Gary Calvert who lives in one of Thirteen’s developments in Middlesbrough. He said: “Bella and Liz from MIMA helped us to do some brilliant things – I think they’re some of the best people in the North East.”