"As a freelance dance artist and Founder & Artistic Director of Ragroof Theatre, I’ve worked in community centres, rural areas, public spaces and care homes – places that often have little or no engagement with the arts. So in my role as Assistant Producer for The Welcome Project I’ve absolutely loved taking social sessions to people living with mild to moderate Dementia at Brooke Mead extra care residential home.
With the help of four older dance volunteers, we run weekly Dance to your own Tune sessions, a blend of dance and movement, music, film, quizzes and reminiscing – designed to offer the regular group of nine participants aged 78+ a vital moment of social connectedness. For me - and I’m told the residents - these sessions are the highlight of the week. Perhaps this is something that many more of us can relate to now that we’re all experiencing social isolation to a greater or lesser degree.
With lockdown being all the more rigorous at care homes across the country, all activity at Brooke Mead has been suspended for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to lose that connection with the group, I’m very fond of them all and I know they need to feel a part of something now more than ever. Because the staff are overwhelmed with caring responsibilities one to one online sessions just aren’t an option so I have been thinking hard about how to connect with them while we’re apart.
What seems most important at this time is staying connected with people, letting them know we are still thinking about them while we cannot be there in person for a dance, a natter and a cup of tea. So I’m creating a dance-themed weekly care package. The first week I made everybody a handmade card with a picture of me on the inside, so they would recognise who it was from. I also added some magazine articles about dance, and poems that I thought they may be interested to read. The following week I made more cards, this time including photographs of us dancing together at previous sessions, smiling, laughing and moving as group. And I knitted a little heart for each resident to keep.
My ambition now is to inspire some safe movement and gentle chair-based exercises to help the group keep moving, and hopefully raise a smile until we can be together again face-to-face."