Sentimental Journeys: a Project in Essex Care Homes
Sentimental Journeys was a partnership project between Essex Cultural Diversity Project and Essex County Council, to support engagement and participation with elderly care home residents and care workers, to raise cultural awareness through the arts and ease social isolation among the elderly.
Sentimental Journeys was multi-sensory and multi-cultural, and included music, song, stories, touch, smell, sound and dance. It involved a mix of performance and reminiscence work, with elements of participation that aimed to engage the audience through song or movement, working on many different levels as the range of dementia ran from mild to very severe. Objects used in the performance were passed round for the residents to examine – an African drum, a sari, bangles, finger bells, the Clever Stick, a shield made of goat skin and another made of paper.
A Reminiscence Box was given to each home that participated, including objects from Reminiscence sessions such as marbles, games and a skipping rope, as well as objects from the performance such as Indian finger bells and bangles.
Promoting stronger and safer communities
This project provided stimulating social engagement and arts activity in a safe environment, providing an enjoyable shared experience for staff, residents, and relatives.
Enhancng health and wellbeing
The reminiscence sessions recorded residents’ memories, which were built into the performance leading to feelings of pride and empathy. The audience included residents with severe dementia who had shown no previous signs of engagement in the project. They were noticed to be singing along and tapping their feet. It is well recognised that singing contributes to health and wellbeing. The project included audience participation at varying levels, from singing along, examining objects or clothing from other cultures used in the performance, to joining in the dancing either on their feet or from a seated position. All elements were evidently enjoyable to the participants who found them very entertaining and at times, very amusing!
Those involved in the project alongside Essex Cultural Diversity Project were:
- Mandy Medlicott, Grand Theatre of Lemmings: directed rehearsals and performance
- Nicola Esson, MAC Theatre – a local performer with improvisation and musical skills
- Seema Anand, a narrative specialist and storyteller: performer with experience of work in the area of older people and dementia
- Siya Twani: performer
- Sarah Girling, Essex County Council Heritage Outreach and trained teacher: delivered the Reminiscence Workshops for care staff and residents, and the Reminiscence Training for care staff
- Essex County Council Arts Development provided the stage management for rehearsals and the tour through Tony Morrison, Essex on Tour.