Here at Creative Beeston we are passionate about the endorsement of craft therapy. The merits of art and crafts on mental well-being have been carefully studied, and the work of the Mental Health Foundation found substantial evidence that patients, who are suffering with depression or anxiety, found creative pursuits more successful in helping their symptoms than medical alternatives.
We are so lucky to have numerous creative opportunities in Beeston and beyond, and most of them do not appear to have any age restrictions. Nevertheless, this did lead me to wonder what specifically we are doing to engage the elderly people in our community? I gave my memory a prod, then I remembered a lady I had been introduced to a while back in relation to community workshops she had been running in local care homes. Promptly I contacted her via her Facebook page and despite a busy schedule, she was more than happy to meet up with me. Taking the tram out of Beeston towards the city then back out again in a less familiar direction, I eventually found her in her bright new office in Clifton.
Karyn started Creative Paths, a Community Interest Company (CIC), working from a tiny attic office at the Voluntary Action Bureau in Beeston, fired by her desire to recreate the benefit of her very first job as a Community Artist, working with mainly elderly and terminally ill patients at Manor Hospital in Derby in the 1980s. Prior to the Community Care Act of 1990 support for the more vulnerable in our society was inadequate. Community Care ensures that people in need of long-term care are now able to live either in their own home, with adequate support, or in a residential home setting.
One of Creative Paths activities is to engage residents in workshops, such as craft, reminiscence and art. Much of Creative Path’s work is centred around the elderly in care homes and in particular patients who have dementia. As well as the creative outcomes, people benefit from the participation and process of making and creating together. All Creative Paths workshops are designed to be accessible and have elements of sensory work, reminiscence and creativity so that there is something for everyone.
lack of interaction can exacerbate confusion and if people are engaged they tend to be much happier in their surroundings
Other services Creative Paths offer, with the help of community education funding via Inspire, is a range of specialist community learning. Such as the Creative Reminiscence course which runs for five weeks. Residents use photos, objects and memorabilia to stimulate their learning. In the group they share their thoughts on a topic such as childhood and this promotes their social interaction. This can counteract the isolation that many people with dementia can experience due to communication difficulties. Often, as people tend to be from the same area, some common memories spring up and spark natural conversations, which is wonderful to witness as well as being brilliant for the brain.
One of the techniques which is employed is known as Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, which can help the memory and thinking skills of people with mild to moderate dementia and can improve the quality of their life quite dramatically. Often songs are used as a form of stimulus and to promote a theme which can then be built upon. Karyn believes that these sessions are effective in producing positive results. She tells me that a lack of interaction can exacerbate confusion and if people are engaged they tend to be much happier in their surroundings. Evidence suggests there can be less accidents or falls due to their calmer mental state and even the need for medication has been reduced in some cases, all amazing outcomes.
Although Creative Paths are currently delivering learning and workshops in some of Beeston’s residential care homes, their offices recently moved to Clifton. Creative Paths is now piloting a project in Clifton called Activity Match, where residents are supported with an activity that meets their specific interests. Participant’s unique pastimes are identified and then they are carefully matched with a volunteer who shares similar interests. Volunteers are often unemployed or retired and needing a purpose themselves. The benefits of this service, unlike some of the group projects, is that it addresses individuals’ needs on a one on one basis.
Karyn also mentions they are providing some family learning opportunities in the Clifton community starting in February. It is clear she still has a lot of ideas, the energy to realise them and a committed team to deliver this valuable support, that adds significant value to the daily lives of some of our older residents.
Despite humble beginnings, Karyn has persisted with her ambitions to empower the elderly in our community. I can feel warmth emanating from her as we chat over the set of tables she has acquired for her new space. The room we are in is spacious with big light filled windows and I think of my own community projects. Karyn tells me that the room is for hire and can be adapted to suit a range of functions, I make a note of this.
Room bookings can be made via the website http://www.creativepaths.org.uk/ but you can also find them on Facebook. And if you want any proof of the wonderful work they are doing I suggest a scroll through the photographs on either page, they are absolutely brimming with positive creativity that is a pure joy to see.