A reflection on 12 months of developing Forever Young, from project manager Dannielle Jackson
Someone once said to me, “aged care isn’t very sexy.” I thought about that for quite a while. I thought about it because, well, with all due respect – I disagree.
Everything I have observed as a creative therapist shows me that aged care environments are much more than the routine 3pm game of bingo accompanied by a Bushells and a Scotch Finger biscuit. They are, in reality, treasure chests, filled with incredible life stories of surprises, joys, happiness, wisdoms, mistakes, pain, sorrow, humour, careers, families, risks, scandals and multiple other spicy details that shape an individual’s life journey.
And it’s these observations, some of which are quite racy, that make the aged care environment much more sophisticated than people imagine.
Such a setting presents the perfect opportunity for puppetry to be utilised as a tool for engagement, excitement, connection and reflection. One that up until now has been widely under-applied. It’s this unique, yet essential contribution of professional artistry to the elder community that inspires Terrapin’s ambitions for Forever Young, a new program of puppetry for aged care.
We have spent nearly 12 months exploring and experimenting with puppetry in this setting, beginning by observing interactions, activities and behaviours across a range of Tasmanian aged care homes. We explored puppetry in different ways, spaces and forms (shadow puppetry, individual explorations with archived or prototype puppets and even trialled our 2021 school touring show Scaredy Cat). We partnered with UTAS to proficiently evaluate the research and results, and took ALL the feedback from residents into consideration (even the details we were trying to dismiss, such as familiarities with Punch + Judy!).
Support Forever Young
This end of financial year, we aim to raise $5,000 to support the Forever Young pilot program in November 2022. This will fund us to visit 4 Tasmanian aged care facilities, providing a full day of performance, one-on-one interaction and staff support. Your donation will contribute directly to this pilot.
Finally, through a creative development with a team of Terrapin experts, we wrapped it all neatly into a purpose-built, full day program aimed at enhancing wellbeing and care outcomes for residents, staff, families, carers and the wider sector.
The results? An immersive performance experience led by personal stories, memories and play for residents, family and staff to attend collectively, followed by personalised individual bedside visits.
(We’ve also delved into the expansive amount of research currently being documented into the profound benefits the arts offer to better health outcomes for people living with dementia, such as increased confidence/self-esteem/mood, reduced isolation, or decreased complex behaviours, to name a few. Creative approaches also have the potential to minimise pharmaceutical interventions and lessen the financial burdens on the healthcare system – but I digress…)
I believe Terrapin’s vision has the potential to pioneer how the aged care sector values the importance of high-quality cultural experiences and considers alternative programming for their members. I feel fortunate to be a part of this process from conception to development. It has allowed every choice and decision to be informed by elders interacting with variations of this experience. It has ensured the program we will deliver by the end of 2022 and onwards is not only for them – it’s about them.
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