Nancy and Florence go online to keep creative and connected

With their weekly face-to-face creative workshops unable to take place residents at a North East care home are gearing up for a summer of singing and digital arts sessions.

For the past year creative ageing charity Equal Arts has supported The Oaks Care Home, on Durban Street, Blyth, with its HenPower Project, combining hen-keeping and creative workshops to help improve wellbeing and reduce loneliness.

But with Covid-19 stopping all face-to-face sessions the charity has been looking at ways it can keep supporting 94-year-old Nancy Forsyth and 93-year-old Florence Cole and The Oaks residents through lockdown.

This July, thanks to funding of almost £10,000 from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, the group can get back to the watercolours with artist Sam Burgess.

Entitled Now More Than Ever, the six-month project sees residents and staff redesigning the outdoor spaces, having garden gigs with the Singing Hinnies, weekly online creative sessions with artists and the opportunity for families to join in virtually.

Angela Hedley is activities coordinator at the venue run by Hill Care. She said: “The Singing Hinnies visits have gone down really well. Residents were moved to tears at being able to see familiar faces and join in. It’s been lovely for everyone at The Oaks, including the staff. It’s fantastic to receive the funding, allowing us to get back to enjoying regular art workshops with Equal Arts, which have inspired residents to explore their talents.”

Additional funding from Blyth Town Council provided the group with extra iPads for online workshops which will be one-to-one or in small groups.

Not put off by technical hurdles and a new way of working, staff and residents at The Oaks have embraced the challenge of finding creative ways to keep connected with Equal Arts and artist Sam Burgess.

Equal Arts’ Jos Forester-Melville, who regularly sings as part of the Singing Hinnies, said: “This project is testament to the dedication and hard work of care staff who continually strive to bring new opportunities to residents during what has been a hugely difficult time.

“Music and creativity can have a transformative effect for those living with dementia and help people feel connected. It’s important as lockdown measures ease for some we consider and support those who are unable as yet to return their usual way of life.

“Having Sam and Nancy back painting together has been fantastic to see and in this adversity there’s the opportunity for residents’ families to get involved in way that hasn’t been possible before.”

To find out more about Equal Arts and it’s work with older people and care settings visit the website here or email information@equalarts.org.uk