Love of art and movement links young and old

The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis
The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis

The artists behind a project in Alnwick which allows young and old to enjoy shared activities are keen to expand its reach.

Dance instructor Emma Hardman has teamed up with artist Helen Ellis to deliver the project at Abbeyfield care home in Alnwick, which involves the residents and young pupils from St Paul’s RC First School.

The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis

The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis

Project coordinator Emma has previously been running a series of dexterity sessions for older people, both at Abbeyfield and in other venues across north Northumberland.

This new multi-generational activity has been inspired by the practice in Sweden where school nurseries are placed in care home settings and the young and old enjoy their day-to-day lives together.

Emma and Helen are leading the project in art and movement, which began when four-year-olds from St Paul’s went into Abbeyfield to sing and dance for the residents.

The duo was facilitating creative movement, dance and art at both the school and care home and decided to combine the groups so they could make music and art together.

The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis

The project involving residents at Abbeyfield Care Home and St Paul's RC First School in Alnwick. Picture by Helen Ellis

Emma said: “We did our first session in November 2015 and it was magic, there were so many exciting moments. The children had so much fun dancing and helping the adults play and move and likewise the residents enjoyed sharing their knowledge and experience with the children.

“Both groups seem to gain so much from each visit, the children enjoy their juice and biscuits afterwards and have such respect for all our older members of the community.”

The pair wants to expand the project into other care-home settings and schools across Northumberland.

They are currently supported by Gateshead-based Equal Arts and are looking for more funding to carry on the work.

Both Emma and Helen realise this is valuable work and want to keep it going and develop it into the future so that schools and children support older people, not just through carols at Christmas, but all year round, bringing joy to people who need it.

Helen, who has been creating a portfolio of photos from the sessions, said: “The exchange of energy in the room between the youngsters and the residents is remarkable; they encourage each other to explore movement through throwing and catching scarves, blowing feathers, drawing and making finger puppets.

“The residents have carefully painted the silk scarves for the children to use during the sessions.

“Everyone involved is always smiling with absolute enjoyment.

“It is a unique experience and we need more of it to keep the energy flowing.”