In the Summer of 2015 Arts Alive Wales in collaboration with Dementia Friendly Brecon led an arts project to give children a chance to work, learn and make art with residents of their local care home. Professional Artists Pip Woolf and Tessa Waite led art workshops which brought residents and carers from Brookside Care Home together with pupils from Llangorse primary school. Rhiannon Davies from Dementia Friendly Brecon visited the school to share her awareness of Dementia with pupils, staff and governors.
The young people were given a chance to work closely with the residents sharing their vision through making prints. Activities were carefully planned to respond to the limited dexterity of the residents. The young people gained a real insight not only into dementia but also the wider issues of learning about compassion and old age.
The project enabled the residents to be actively and meaningfully involved in creating new memories, not just living in their past. Working with local children meant that the elderly residents were not just referencing the past but valuing ‘me’ now .
Staff noted a transformation in their demeanour following their interactions with the school, whilst the children described the experience as ‘awesome’, reflecting the particular bond that can exist between the very young and the very young. One child told a resident ‘I want to go home with you.’
Writer Graham Hartill planned and managed a schedule of visits working one to one with residents, collecting stories and reminiscences. Graham specialises in therapeutic writing with the elderly particularly those with neurological impairment; he collects and transcribes their personal testimonies. His solo work was effective in creating relationships of intimacy enabling two elderly male residents in share stories that they had a real need to tell.
The presence of artists changed the energy in the home. It brought new energy and excitement for residents, artists and staff. It helped staff to further develop relationships with people in the home.
One member of staff said that the project had transformed her understanding of those she cared for and how she could serve them. It had given her courage to try new things and risk uncertainty.