Sounding Out Your Heritage

We never envisaged that Sounding Out Your Heritage (SOYH) would be such an amazing success and produce some dramatic early results. If you want to improve health and well-being in older adults using learning then read on.

Overview of the project

The SOYH project brought together groups of over-60s from a wide variety of backgrounds across Kent and Medway over a series of learning sessions. These sessions provided learning support to the participants to help them explore an aspect of their heritage that interested them and produce a resource which would enable others to learn about their heritage too.

We had a very short time to complete Sounding Out Your Heritage. We partnered with three housing providers: Abbeyfield Kent Society, Canterbury City Council and Southern Housing Group, who gave us access to five of our six groups of over 60s. Working with museum educators and freelancers, the team took the project into sheltered housing schemes, residential care homes and a participant’s house.


Sounding Out Your Heritage achieved positive results, in terms of impact on the lives of participants, very quickly. The feedback from housing and GEM staff observations has confirmed that the project has been very successful in improving participants’ quality of life.

One housing manager reported changes in the behaviour of her residents after just two sessions. They had become enthused, and even those normally reticent to converse with others were discussing the project and also a range of other topics. Throughout the project we were regaled with such stories. Housing professionals even reported seeing beneficial results in individuals with challenging mental health problems.

Other outcomes included:

  • Most said that they found the project stimulating and they particularly liked the object handling sessions.
  • Many stated meeting new people and the atmosphere of the project as the part they most enjoyed.
  • All participants who completed a feedback form said that they had enjoyed taking part in the project.
  • All participants who responded said that they would like to engage in a similar activity in the future.
  • The project exceeded the output target of 60 learners.
  • There was a higher take up rate from individuals who were less physically able.
  • The participation by gender was much higher amongst women.
  • Time, or a lack of it, was considered by all to be the biggest problem with Sounding Out Your Heritage.
  • Varying skill levels of participants, sight and hearing impairments and the facilitation space all need better consideration in future projects.


To inspire and help care and heritage professionals use learning to improve health and well-being in older adults, we have collected our experiences together in GEM’s Best Practice Toolkit.

Resources produced by the participants include two photo storybooks, four posters, five leaflets, two CDs, an object box and a sensory quilt. Take a look at these – and listen to some too.

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