Age & Opportunity creates a virtual sense of community by linking residents of care settings with artists and their local arts community
As part of the initiative, 91 participants from six care settings partnered with artists who engaged the residents in activities that encouraged art, creativity and movement such as music, dance and theatre.
In January 2021, against the backdrop of the third wave of Covid-19, we kicked off artist residencies in six care settings around Ireland to reinstil a much-needed sense of community the residents have been missing for so long as part of our Care Hubs of Arts & Creative Excellence initiative.
Through the medium of dance, theatre and music, residents from all over Ireland, ranging from the age of 70 to over 90, reconnected in virtual activities which saw excitement and normality burst back into their lives. In particular, the residents really appreciated the chance the initiative gave them to reconnect with those they had lost touch with over the course of the pandemic, “The most enjoyable thing was seeing the faces of all the friends that we’ve missed so much over the last 15 months,”; Maureen Williams, participant in the Age & Opportunity Dance Residency.
As part of the initiative, older people in care settings around Ireland had the chance to engage and artistically explore and celebrate their life and work in a series of specially choreographed performance events in story, song and dance. The artists designed blended residencies that responded to the needs of each setting, whilst still striving for authentic engagement with residents. Interactions were online, by phone and through postal means as well as ending with some in-person visits, once government guidelines permitted.
The residencies not only benefited the residents but, the staff in the care settings involved also felt a sense of joy in the building during the creative sessions; “Residents definitely benefited, you can see them smiling going back from the sessions and the staff learned a lot, they learned to actually relax and enjoy with the residents. So that is what this residency gave us.
“Infection control restrictions are there, but life can still happen,” Vandana Iqbal, Clonskeagh Community Nursing Unit.
Funded by Creative Ireland’s Creativity in Older Age Programme, with support from the Arts Council of Ireland, the Age & Opportunity Dance Residency echoed the message of its previous initiatives centred on thoughtful and bespoke arts experiences for older people in care around Ireland. The programme saw residents from both Clonskeagh Community Nursing Unit, Dublin and Naas Day Care Centre enjoy dance in artist-led sessions from Philippa Donnellan and Olwyn Lyons. Working together, the dance artists and care staff brought creativity and connection to older people who had been isolating for so long.
“Dance is the primary art form, but also to engage people in singing, in storytelling”; Philippa Donnellan, artist in residence.
Initiatives like this have done so much to lift the spirits of those involved and have an unarguably immediate positive effect on the residents. Ellen O’Rourke, daughter of participant Bridget Hogan spoke on her mother’s experience saying; “She really enjoyed it. The interaction with other people just brought her out of herself so much. With the lockdown, if it wasn’t for the Zoom, I don’t know what we would have done, it was great”.
Today, we’ve released a vibrant video that captures the atmosphere of the dance residency. The video is now live on our YouTube channel, which you can view here.