Music and art has long been used as a tool to stimulate and engage care home residents, its impact is well documented. As the average age of care home residents continues to increase with higher levels of frailty and often with increasingly complex needs, social care providers are looking across the arts to develop participatory programmes in an effort to engage residents and enable them to reconnect with themselves as well as others around them.
Jewish Care, the UK’s largest health and social care organisation for the Jewish community strives to ensure each and every one of its clients, regardless of their abilities, lives a meaningful life and this is often stimulated through participatory creative arts based programmes.
Jewish Care’s director of care and community services, Neil Taylor explains, “Our vision is to create a care community here that isn’t just about the people living here or visiting a day centre, it’s about encouraging families, staff and volunteers from the local community to connect with one another creatively and enrich lives and relationships. Our creative arts programmes are stimulating relatives, volunteers and care staff to join our residents, taking part in future meaningful creative activities together.”
Jewish Care Festival of Art, Music and Colour
This weekend Colourscape, a large walk-in sculpture of pure colour which was installed in the gardens of Jewish Care’s Princess Alexandra Home in Stanmore. It was the headline act at the charity’s summer arts festival for residents across all Jewish Care homes who participated along with their families and carers. Designed and built by artists living in Wales, led by Peter Jones and Lynne Dickens, Colourscape structures have been shown as walk-in sculptural installations at arts festivals and events throughout the world designed to explore colour, music art and nature.
Caroline D’Souza, Creative Arts Development Manager explained how it came about, “Thanks to funding from City Bridge Trust we were able to put up the Colourscape as the culmination of our work with our partners from the Eye Music Trust whose aim is to open up music to as wide an audience as possible. Their expert team of music and art practitioners, have brought smaller scale installations of colour, music, light and art incorporating a computer-music sensor system which has been adapted for older people with limited movement to create their own music, to many of the Jewish Care homes over the past three years.
It was great to collaborate with them to build the festival and exciting to invite residents, their carers and relatives to take part.”
Music plays an important role in working with older people and especially those living with dementia.
Entering the Colourscape structure is a strong sensory experience and residents were able to walk, or be taken in their wheel chairs, through nearly 100 highly-coloured chambers which are linked by openings and which form a breath- taking labyrinth of colour, light and space all illuminated by natural daylight.
One resident of Clore Manor, Celia, who took part and enjoyed the music said, age, said, “I love colour and I love music.”
Caroline explains how music is used in Colourscape, “Going through the structure, participants were met by musicians who facilitated music workshops, playing and encouraging residents to try out a variety of acoustic Tibetan instruments including, rain sticks, drums which replicated the sound of the sea, giant metal gongs as well as the voices of experienced musicians. They were all designed to encourage participants to feel and generate vibrations and enjoy sensing the rhythms of the music. There were also farm animals outside for residents to meet, samba workshops and abstract painting and ancient Chinese printing which relatives and residents also got involved with indoors to form a complement the sensory experiences.”
She adds, “The Jewish Care Colourscape Arts Festival was a great success, a unique day for many residents, relatives and carers. The aim was to encourage participation and engagement in a fun and meaningful way and it was good to see – from the smiles on many of the residents faces today – that we were able to do that.”
Another the latest partnerships ‘Portrait of a Dream’ saw leading intergenerational arts specialist ‘Magic Me’ connect drama students together with nursing and care home residents in a collaborative photography project.
Residents and students were encouraged to share their dreams and personal stories to create a series of quirky Polaroid portraits which culminated in an exhibition in the home.
Lianne Harris of Magic Me describes the creative process of the dream project. She says, “Taking Polaroid shots of each other helped to break the ice and keep everyone present and active in the workshop and it worked particularly well to stimulate residents with dementia. Everyone got to know each other so that they felt comfortable enough to share their dreams and wishes.
”Some reconnected with happy memories from the past and others to dreams and wishes for now and in the future. These were dreams of holidays, festive meals, freedom, food and family and together we found ways to incorporate the stories and think about what it would look like.”
One MA Arts student who took part backs up Jewish Care’s vision of their arts programme bringing the local community of different ages, together with older people, “I didn’t have a strong connection with older people before this,” says Michal, “but we had a lot to talk about and after spending a couple of days at the home it was like I was coming back to see friends.”
Creative projects can also bring out personal stories from participants and connect them and those who work and care for them, with their past. For Sam Joel, 67, who is a resident at Rosetrees, it was a reminder of that he had been a successful professional photographer before he retired, due to ill health. His photo portrait, ‘Dream of Love’ involved eating latkes and salt beef whilst listening to rock music. “It was really good to be holding a camera again,” said Sam, “I enjoyed it and I’m going to put the photo on my mantelpiece.’
Sam’s son, Michael was also very impressed with the project’s outcomes, he says: “The care here is amazing and I’m happy to see Dad out of his normal everyday environment and doing something really creative. It’s brought his previous work as a photographer out as something we can come back to together.”
Another resident, Geoffrey Conway, 73, and his wife Estelle also came together to work on their ‘The Dream of Shared Celebration’, with a Haitian student from the School. “It was good to meet the students,” says Geoff, “we had different traditional views and ended up taking photos which brought together celebrations from two cultures. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again.”
His wife, Estelle adds, poignantly, “In our photo one of the students is holding a box with the key to the villa in Corfu where Geoffrey and I first met 47 years ago.”
iPads, life stories and animation projects
Residents, relatives and carers have developed new iPad animation projects with partners Salmagundi Films, made possible by funding from The Nathanson Trust. The films animated their favourite objects and told stories from their lives, narrated by the residents.
Another recent project culminated in a cinema style screening of short films at the new Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet last week. The series of 14 short life interviews created on iPads by residents, carers and families, interviewing one another about their lives.
As well as giving residents a moment in the spotlight, it helps those around them to understand them better. One of the members of the Living Well staff team at Jewish Care talked in Polish, with a resident, Esther about her family and life in Poland.
Caroline D’Souza adds, “There is a strong sense of fun in the arts programmes, they help to reinforce individual identity, share life stories and the creativity helps people to reconnect to themselves and others around them and enjoy more meaningful lives as a result.”