JAM JAR ARMY: ‘Delightful’ dynamics as young meets old

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

We began the creative work with Abbeyfield more than five years ago, with dance and movement-related projects involving some active older people in the community supporting the needs of the older residents living in care homes.

We were able to take them out on trips and offer creative arts with a specialism in dance and movement practice for people in wheelchairs or unable to stand or walk for any length of time.

The work has proved very beneficial health-wise and socially stimulating for all the residents, as well as an extremely rewarding experience for the artists involved in facilitating the sessions.

We have since fund-raised with the support of Equal Arts, Dansformation and Abbeyfield House and have been delivering various projects, but developing the work to the needs of the older people living in a care setting.

For the last year, we have been working with young children and allowing them to spend time creating arts with their older friends, arranging visits with groups of children each week.

Last year, it was St Paul’s RC First School, now in 2017 we are working with Swansfield Park First School’s Year 3 pupils, working on a Heritage Lottery-funded project about the First World War. The pupils have made firm friends with their older members of the community and enjoy hearing stories of Edith Cavell and wartime adventures.

The children are creating journals to share their experiences and show pictures, we are making rag rugs and having trips to Bailiffgate Museum, which is supporting the project. We will be having a trip so we can share our work we’ve developed at Alnwick Playhouse, a great central space in the town centre where the children and older adults can spend time, competing in a game of yo-yo, floating in a parachute and sharing their stories.

The work has a wonderful dynamic where the older people care for the children and the children care for the older people. To be a part of this is a delight, to see so much fun and hilarity, seeing people come out of their shells and basically have a wonderful time.

The children also gain huge amounts of confidence and knowledge and love their time with the residents, a group of girls actually wanting a sleepover at Abbeyfield so they could spend more time with their older friends.

We feel this work should be present in all care homes and developing this is hugely important to us, even in this difficult time of very little arts funding.

We are also working with Abbeyfield residents to create very important pieces of costume and set to be used in Dansformation’s Hummingbird project, to be performed at Alnwick Playhouse in June 2017.

Enabling older people to create really useful things in our community and feel empowered and feel important, which they are, rather than forgotten about.