Creative Seated Dance
This project trained and mentored staff and volunteers in Day Centres and Care Homes across Surrey to deliver seated creative dance. This followed a successful pilot scheme in two Surrey-based venues (a care home in Haslemere and a day centre in Farnham). The three training days were oversubscribed; all six mentoring spaces were filled by staff and volunteers and participants from a range of setting responded well to the dance sessions. Creative Seated Dance combines movement and creative ideas. The dance is seated to enable older people, or those with motor difficulties, to participate (although there is nothing to stop people from standing up especially as they gain confidence and strength). Dance is often an activity that an older person has had to stop due to lessening mobility and balance problems. Creative Seated Dance uses movement, music and props to explore creative ideas, enables participants to forget that they are exercising, to reminisce, to get caught up in the movement, ideas or music and forget their limitations. All the while exercising mind and body and increasing well-being.
Aim & Objectives
The core aim of the project is to help vulnerable older people to deal with life-changing events which often come with age including:
retirement: remaining active and feeling useful by volunteering in the community craft garden will promote self-esteem and feelings of achievement
bereavement: having a social network and remaining physically active ‘buffers’ the effects of losing a loved one and belonging to the garden will reduce isolation and the risk of depression
care-giving: many older people find themselves in a caring role, or being cared for, and a space to share this responsibility or escape from the routine is invaluable in maintaining good mental health
physical & mental decline: remaining physically active means that older people are less likely to suffer premature death and have a lower risk of disability or decline in daily life and also has psychological and social benefits; there is also something special about craft – working with our hands makes us content and has an ability to bring people together; produce from the garden will also encourage healthy eating; various studies also demonstrate the benefits of physical activity and making on patients recovering from or living with certain conditions (e.g. dementia, stroke victims)
empty nesters: older people who now find themselves living alone will benefit from social interaction and, as more active older adults, will be in a position to provide support to those less physically able
The community art gardens will not only provide opportunities for social interaction but also access to the proven therapeutic benefits of art and gardening.
Partnership and working with others will be central to the ongoing success of the community craft gardens. We will work with Surrey County Arts, Surrey County Council and with all district/ borough councils across the county ensuring that all relevant departments (e.g. arts, planning and landscape teams) are committed to the project. This will enable land to be identified for the gardens, where plots have not already been committed to the project, and ensure access to public sector expertise and networks. We will also work with health agencies to identify potential volunteers to the garden and to provide advice on evaluating the health benefits of gardening and making. It is also essential to identify local partners for each site. We have established strong community partnerships across the county and are also experienced in researching and engaging new groups. We have particularly good connections with local schools and would be keen to see a strong intergenerational strand on the project. We will also work with the Leatherhead Community Garden which was established in 2011 as part of the Arts Partnership’s Making Surrey project. Since that time they have attracted a strong team of volunteers; created a productive garden and generated funding of over £20,000 to create a teaching space on site.
The whole community will be involved in the art gardens and so we expect to create eight new community gathering places for all generations resulting in greater community cohesion and new friendships. Older people will develop social networks with people of all ages which will increase confidence and self-esteem, improve health and well-being and also reduce fear of crime. Gardening, design and creative skills which are either gained or refreshed by older adults will result in feelings of accomplishment and will build the capacity of communities to deliver further projects. By working in partnership we also expect to see a difference in the skills and reputation of the organisations involved with the project.
Legacy & Sustainability
Community art gardens offer a different approach, combining the therapeutic benefits of creating art and gardening with healthy produce and good design. The development of each garden will respond to the community so each space will be different. However, some of the activity which we would expect to see develop might include the development of teaching space; the creation of small social enterprises able to sell produce (jams, chutneys etc) and hand-crafted items (willow plant supports, chopping boards, bug houses etc) to ensure sustainability; cookery and craft workshops. The professionals working on site (whether craft maker, or horticulturist) will also work with an older person as an informal, volunteer ‘apprentice’ to ensure that specialist skills are left in the garden and can be passed on to other members of the community. We also want to take an innovative approach to recruiting older members of the community to the gardens. We will approach health agencies to encourage referrals to the garden and will begin a conversation about ‘prescribing’ time in the garden.
We will document the development of the project from the outset with interviews, photographs, sketches and activity reports to capture details of the people engaging with the project including age range and profile. We will also work with health agencies to document changes to people’s physical and mental health as the project progresses. We believe that it is just as important to capture people’s stories and will follow some key individuals throughout the project to document their response to it. This information will enable us to measure the impact of the community art gardens against the central aim of helping vulnerable older people to deal more effectively with life-changing events. This will include analysis of the personal and social impact of the project as well as the impact on health and education