I had a wonderful day of learning at the Arts in Eldercare Seminar yesterday. Listening to the many leaders in this area of work and research from various parts of the world was most enlightening and inspiring.
Tim Carpenter, Founder of EngAGE USA, shared from his experience with creative programmes for vibrant ageing about the social engagement and mastery that are essential elements of using arts as a transformative experience. Having intergenerational programmes is noteworthy too.
Prof Kua shared about the research in the prevention of dementia and depression, specifically the Jurong Ageing Study. These included the use of the arts, like art, singing and music-reminiscence, and they have seen positive results thus far. A note of interest is that depression is as much, if not a bigger concern, than dementia, and once again, the social dimension of the arts programme was an important benefit that was highlighted.
The panel discussion that followed was exciting with panelists, from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and USA, who enthusiastically shared from their experiences and perspectives. Two points that stood out for me were the challenge to how we view elders (with respect while also holding a non-age mindset) and the value of the arts and artists because of the open, accepting, free, fun and non-competitive nature.
Yoko Hayashi, from Arts Alive Japan, left the lingering note of making the arts making experience a celebration-‘hare‘.
For the afternoon’s breakout, I got to hear more about the specifics of running an arts programme from frameworks, concepts, dreams to specifics from the 4 speakers. I found the thoughts and passion of Kenneth (Yishun Community Hospital) and Jane (Singapore Association for Mental Health) particularly infectious.
All in, I was uplifted by the scope of potential for arts in bringing about wellness not just for the elderly but for anyone. Arts in its various forms – visual, performance, literary, and so on – is indeed very much an important part of our human development and experience but perhaps we have mostly neglected it to our own detriment.