Working creatively with the elderly in care

Convener(s): Aimee Corbett

Participants: Chris Gage and Jen Leenn and a few butterflies

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Initially the question was set by me as I was interested in how I could go about working creatively with elderly in care. 

Many ideas discussed were similar to ideas one would implement working with any generation in a community.


How to approach such a project

 First on such a project, don’t go in with your wonderful vision. Find out what the residents concerns, cares and interests actually are.

To get them involved one has to grab attention, convince them, interest them, perhaps entertain them, laughter is always important, make sure they feel and know they are important and needed in the process.

Be on the participants level, this can be done by:

  • Sharing food this is always a significant exchange around the world
  • Don’t be presumptuous
  • Eye contact is crucial (one may notice that care staff rarely allow for this essential connection)
  • Try sitting in a chair and age yourself by a decade each time till you reach eighty (think about rhythm and physicality). 

Start a workshop simply, it doesn’t need to be complicated; one idea was to build a story using tableau’s.

Memories and reminiscences are obviously important, ways to use stories could be with the aid of objects, there was the idea of memory boxes, and workshops which celebrate different points of ones life. One could use written stories and play with interaction and reversing roles e.g. a carer plays Juliet, and the person she cares for plays the nurse.

It was accepted the older generation has a lot to tell and in this country, they are often pushed aside, why might this be? 

People are scared of death; perhaps the elderly are viewed as being in a parking space slowly moving nearer to death. Depression, gloom and doom is expected and accepted.

It was told that many elderly like to moan, that’s ok you offer them something new to moan about.

There will soon be more of the older generation than ever, surely they can’t be ignored?

Working in a creative process can take away the watching of time and being active and following interests in a project can lessen pain, depression, loneliness.

Intergenerational performance is important, it bridges gaps, all involved will learn.

Completing the project

One must set boundaries and a clear structure for the project, so all know and are prepared for the leaving date.

Whenever possible try to set up a legacy a continuation of the project, however if this is not possible you have planted seeds. The discourse that has occurred will have an effect, space may be looked upon differently due to actions that have taken place, or one may leave remnants of a new memory with pictures and photographs.

 Relationships with others can alter, changes may occur with the rapport between both the cared for and the carers.