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Reconnecting with Creativity - Age and Opportunity’s Artist Residencies

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Reconnecting with Creativity - Age and Opportunity’s Artist Residencies

0 min read

Reconnecting with Creativity - Age and Opportunity’s Artist Residencies

During 2019, Age & Opportunity expanded their Artist in Residency in a Care Setting initiative with the help of Creative Ireland Programme's National Creativity Fund, the HSE CHO Lottery and the Arts Council of Ireland. The initiative brought together 6 artists and the residents of 6 care settings around the country.

The Creative Ireland Programme asked some of those involved to reflect on the project and what they learnt from it. Their observations were both insightful and touching.

“Unfortunately one of the older people that I had been working closely with on 1-to-1 sessions passed away. She was also very good friends with some of the other people I am working with and they were feeling very lonely after her. We did have a lovely reminiscence session where we used a linocut map of one of the local villages that we’ve been developing as a starting point and we ended up exchanging lovely stories about their friend and country life traditions

One of the participants told me all about the tradition of thrashing the corn and the celebratory dance and feast they had at the end of the season. These conversations and interactions seemed to have a very positive outcome, brightening up some of the residents’ morning.

I think this really showed how art can be or do something more than be a nice thing on the wall. Also staff recognised the close relationship I had built with the woman who had passed through our creative sessions and one member of staff said it was lovely that she got to have those moments in her last few weeks.”

Raheen

Age and Opportunity - Artist Residencies in Care Settings

Open Video

The older people who participated in the workshops shared an enthusiasm for new experiences and enjoyed the unpredictable nature of creativity. Simultaneously those caring for them noticed an increase in their sense of themselves, how they loved the interaction with the artists and relished the opportunity to express themselves. The conversations generated by the artists proved to be hugely important to the older people. Together with the artists they explored their life stories and shared poetry and songs.

‘We’ll try anything – but the fingers aren’t as good as they used to be! It’s never too late to try and learn new things. We are open to risks – unpredictable is good.’

As time went on some of the older people involved developed a sense of significant achievement and with that confidence in their own ability grew. Some said that the experience brought back wonderment to their lives with observers remarking ‘it was like going back to their youth’ and ‘Just amazing what they got out of it – they were buzzing’ .

Participants were seen smiling, engaging, enjoying new sensory experiences and being present in ways not typically seen with carers and family members reporting that those participating in the creative projects were enjoying improved mental and cognitive health.

Staff at the various residencies saw their residents tap into their own innate creative reservoirs including those who were hard to reach and who have not engaged with other activities at the setting.

As the programme continued carers began to see the older people in their care differently and used the social engagement of the arts projects to get to know them better. Through the creative projects they also began to understand that art is more than creating a nice picture or object and is essentially about self expression. They saw the value in the one-to-one time spent by the artist with older people and aspired to try to engage with their older people in the same way. One said, ‘We saw the residents excel way more than we expected to see. We don’t have the time, skill or resources to do this and it was the time and the relationship that make it happen..

Creative Ireland and Age and Opportunity are delighted to announce that a second programme of creative residencies will begin in January 2021 with an emphasis on dance and performance cultural endeavour. A call out for participating artists will be announced soon.

To read more about the Age and Opportunity 2019-2020 Residencies please click here.

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