Faith In Older People

Award: £65,000
Timescale: November 2016 – October 2017

Project aims

To improve the quality of life of people with dementia living in care homes by:

  • Undertaking a multi-faith mapping exercise to map the scale and nature of spiritual care work (across the faith communities in Scotland) with people living with dementia in care homes
  • Encouraging the provision of an environment that actively works to lift the spirts of people living with dementia and their families
  • Delivering six ‘Purple Bicycle’ training programmes over two years, training a cohort of 60 practitioners in the care sector to lead, deliver and evaluate spiritual care projects
  • Providing ongoing support to practitioners in the development of their own spiritual care projects



The Purple Bicycle project is a person centred spiritual care resource which gives the person with dementia, carers, relatives and friends an opportunity to review and sustain relationships that are meaningful and sincere.

It brings together caring practices that are often found individually within organisations that care for older people. Its unique contribution is that these practices are presented as a linked and coherent expression of care and concern for the spiritual lives of people with dementia.

The project consists of a purposeful six-step process to which participants are introduced in a two- day workshop.


More Information

The overall purpose of this two year project was to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia living in care homes by increasing understanding of the role of spirituality, faith, and religion in their lives, and by encouraging the provision of an environment that actively works to lift the spirits of those with dementia and their relatives.

For the purposes of this project, the definition of spiritual care used by NHS Education for Scotland was adopted: ‘Spiritual Care is person centred care which seeks to help people (re)discover hope, resilience and inner strength in times of illness, injury, transition and loss.’

The main question the project aimed to address was: ‘what needs to be done to ensure that residential care provision in Scotland takes seriously issues of spirituality, faith, and religion?’


Outcomes we'd like to see

The project had two strands:

  • A mapping exercise exploring and describing the key ways in which residential care providers are currently delivering spiritual care to people living with dementia. This will highlight pointers for policy development, education and training, and professional practice.
  • A practical initiative focused on recognising and meeting the spiritual needs of people with advanced dementia. This is an area of spiritual care that is recognised as needing development. The initiative was aimed at care facilities and was based on ‘The Purple Bicycle Project’. The use of the Purple Bicycle approach was agreed by Professor Swinton and Dr Mowat, the creators of the process. The project ran concurrently with the mapping exercise. In this way, the overall project sought to have theoretical, policy and practical outcomes.

Download the mapping report here


Additional Information

Read more about the Purple Bicycle project here

For more information about spiritual care for people with dementia in care homes read this report.