The Purple Bicycle Project provides a way of helping our most vulnerable people living within residential settings to find a sense of community, dignity and belonging and to have their spiritual needs recognised and met with and thoughtfulness compassion.


The Project is an empirically based person-centred spiritual care resource developed by Professor John Swinton and Dr Harriet Mowat from research funded by the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Project 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 process and expression of care and concern for the spiritual lives of people with dementia. This is a resource for everybody, not just for those who are religious. It helps us to understand one another more deeply. As we come to understand one another more deeply so we inevitably begin to care more compassionately.  The Purple Bicycle Project aims to help us all to create a better way of living together.  

The Spiritual lives of people living with dementia: finding good stories

This Project focuses on the spiritual lives and needs of people with intellectual or cognitive impairment. Currently the primary focus is on people with advanced dementia who are living in residential care. We plan to develop the programme to help meet the needs of people with profound intellectual disabilities in 2015.

Many of the stories that we tell about dementia are profoundly negative. The Project seeks to change the story and help us all to see that which is positive and which has potential even in the light of deep cognitive decline. The Purple Bicycle Project is a six step process which we describe as a kind of journey. As we travel along this journey, we gather together life story information, and along the way endeavour to help to create communities that can listen attentively to the stories told by people with dementia, their relatives, friends and carers. As the journey moves on so we are able to create new and positive stories that lead to new and positive forms of care and support.  These stories lead to new forms of action which leads to new possibilities for the person with dementia.

The Project gives the person with dementia, relatives and friends an opportunity to review and sustain relationships that are meaningful and sincere. It gives all of us together a chance to become actively involved in the shaping of the care plan for those we care for. It focuses on the present and future possibilities for the quality of life of the older person. The project aims to discover in the present those things that delight and encourage the older person.

The Spiritual task is to offer love, friendship, comfort and hope to each other in ways that are meaningful to the individuals concerned. The Purple Bicycle Project hopes to be a catalyst within this transformative process.

If you would like to know more about this project please contact Dr Harriet Mowat or Professor John Swinton.