Updated summary October 2017
‘Postcards from Precious Places’ Project Summary
This project aims to:
- Reduce isolation and improve well-being in older people, especially those living with dementia, by offering social and creative activities for them.
- Equip young volunteers with the skills and confidence to support socially engaging interaction with older people during these project sessions
- Build greater awareness of what people can do to create more dementia-friendly communities, fostering empathy and greater understanding of older people’s needs
- Offer volunteer experience in working with vulnerable people, and people living with dementia to build confidence, develop valuable social, peer and team-working skills
The project is:
- Led by AgeUK Canterbury, working in partnership with the Simon Langton Boys’ school (SLBS) working with the Simon Langton Girls’ school (SLGS), supported by Westgate Parks
- Funded mainly by KCC, through an innovation award from Kent Dementia Action Alliance; It will run through the spring and summer period.
- Supported by the Simon Langton Girls’ School, as the legacy of their own older people’s project from 2016, ‘Taking Trees’, who are contributing and will help promote the SLBS work, building on their own project learning and experiences.
- Facilitated by Fay Blair and Nicky Thompson with Catherine Arnell who work on ‘arts and wellbeing’ projects. Nicky is a creative writer, Catherine is an artist/ceramicist and Fay a project manager and evaluator. See about their work here with AgeUK Canterbury: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/canterbury/wellbeing/lapwing/
- Supported by Harriet Ogle, SLBS Deputy Head Girl with SLBS teacher, Sarah Passfield who will co-ordinate and promote the work and SLBS student involvement
- Supported by Nick Hayes, teacher from SLGS with Year 12 SLGS student, Leeluu King (who took part in Talking Trees) to encourage SLGS Year 9 in this new SLBS project.
The volunteer & facilitator team for the July 2017 creative writing & crafting sessions at Age UK Canterbury
The full evaluation summary by Fay Blair can be downloaded here: v.2FinalSummaryPostcardsPreciousPlaces19 Oct2017
Postcards from Precious Places was a project that showed the benefits of intergenerational working, creating a community between groups of students from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar (Year 9) and Simon Langton Boys’ Grammar co-ed 6th form with older people, some of whom live with dementia.
- The focus on creative writing and crafting activities offered a way of meeting people and having a fun, social afternoon out; doing something a bit different. It was an opportunity to overcome the loneliness and isolation that many older people experience.
- The project was an ‘eye-opener’ for the young people that changed their life perspective, in realising how simple acts of kindness and patience can make a big positive difference to older people, lifting their mood and contributing to an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
- The initial ‘Dementia Friends’ sessions delivered by the project team – as awareness-raising and recruitment sessions in school (for 15 students ) – were followed by two student training sessions. These were to prepare a team of (9) committed students to understand the needs of older people and the challenges that those who live with dementia face day-to-day.
Interactive training sessions about dementia and supporting older people.
- Students also supported the Westgate Parks activity day for the Mayoral launch of the tree trail, designed ‘with older people in mind’, on 21 May 2017, and attended the earlier after-school briefing (9th May). They found it highly enjoyable and rewarding.The general public (over 200 visitors), students and the (25) older people from AgeUK Canterbury and Cranmer House Sheltered Housing Scheme, enjoyed being escorted round the trail with the newly published leaflet. Many joined in the outdoor creative activities led by Pebble Poetry and Espression Arts (hands-on, including clay work) and staged on the terrace of Tower House overlooking the wonderful heritage park’s Westgate Gardens.
- These practical sessions were sound preparation for the three Age UK Canterbury Saturday ‘afternoon tea’, creative writing and crafting sessions (15th, 22nd, 29th July 2017). Older people came with friends and carers; some on their own, and worked in small groups round tables supported by student volunteers and made friends. 33 people attended on 29th.
The student and participant feedback: learning from the evaluation for the future
- All the students found the training sessions ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ useful. It extended their knowledge of dementia and helped to build their self confidence in dealing with older people, especially in what to expect and how to best help and what qualities and skills they need for this. They realised the importance of patience, empathy, confidence, speaking loudly and listening skills. Students’ social, dementia ‘caring’ and team skills were developed.
- The vast majority of participants (90%) enjoyed the sessions, ‘very’ much or ‘excellently’. They remarked on the ‘warmth and ‘friendliness’ and how well people got along together and had fun, achieving things that they didn’t expect they could. They particularly loved poems being read out loud, working with their hands, especially clay, and making their own decorated and laminated postcards, whilst sharing stories and memories.
- Everyone relished talking, ‘being together’ and welcomed the tea and home-made cakes.
- At the end of the sessions, the evaluation showed participants felt ‘less isolated’ or lonely.
- Fixing session times that suit everyone over the summer was a challenge. Many students had exam and job commitments. ‘Word of mouth’ is the best way to get people to take part.
All (100%) the students said they would be interested in similar future projects giving peer support, realising the importance and value of this work. Several older people were motivated to take part in other creative activities as a result of this project. There is scope now to develop poetry and creative writing with crafts as an integrated programme, with the Kent-wide Age UK network for 2018/19 to increase the outreach and impact, galvanising more action for dementia friendly communities.
A summary of your project
Three coffee morning or afternoon tea sessions will be delivered at AgeUK in Canterbury, one a month from October to December. These will be aimed at people living with dementia, their friends, family and carers. They will be social events, which will include writing for well-being sessions for participants called ‘Postcards from Precious Places’.
The sessions will be delivered by a professional writer along with student volunteers from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School. We expect one or two of their existing student champions, who became interested in dementia following their enrichment work on ‘Talking Trees’, to be involved and recruit others through an assembly presentation in September/early October. The girls will be trained and mentored, and the sessions will also be supported by Fay Blair from Kent Creative Arts CIC ‘Arts and Wellbeing
People living with dementia often feel isolated and become scared of taking part in activities, carers often worry about their loved ones behaviour and so are more likely to attend an event aimed at them. People living with dementia attending currently running writing projects say what a positive experience it is, how much it improves their mood, and how participating makes them feel less isolated. They have also asked to be informed of further opportunities.
In 2011, there were an estimated 2,145 residents living with dementia – the highest number of any district in Kent. We know from our earlier work on Talking Trees at AgeUK that there is an interest in this, to develop relationships, friendships with older people.
Please tell us how it reaches the outcomes:
The project will provide three monthly coffee mornings or afternoon tea sessions bringing together people living with dementia, their friends, families and carers. This will provide a safe environment for people living with dementia to enjoy a positive, creative experience and allow them to socialise. It will also provide a supportive environment for family and carers, and an opportunity for peer support and also give them the chance of some time out. There will be creative activities for everyone to engage with, and student volunteers. The volunteers will be trained to enable them to feel confident in engaging with people with dementia.
The shared experience for people living with dementia and their loved ones will give them something pleasant and interesting to talk about. We will also gather information to signpost participants to other activities and support groups in the District.People living with dementia, their friends, families and carers.
The majority of people with dementia in the local area are over sixty, however some are younger, early onset 50+. The families and carers will be across all ages. Also, the student volunteers from SLGS will be mentored throughout the project to upskill them.
This will lead to an increase in self-esteem, increased communication skills, improved team work and an increased understanding of the impact of dementia on people and society. This increased understanding will enable them to raise awareness about dementia in the school and the local community, and will support them in future work around dementia.
The number of people attending each session will be monitored, their satisfaction – how much they enjoyed the event. We will also engage the students in trying out the Canterbury Christ Church University piloted Wellbeing Self evaluation (developed by Sidney de Haan Centre for Arts & Health. These aspects will help to gauge the impact of the sessions, the well-being uplift sense of connectedness and overcoming feelings of isolation. The survey will be facilitated in a highly social way by student volunteers to ensure its accessibility and the people’s active engagement.
The project will deliver three coffee morning/ or afternoon tea events called ‘Postcards from Precious Places’ at AgeUK in Canterbury. Free, light refreshments will be offered to all attendees. An art and writing for well-being session based around the ideas of remembering special places, and sharing those with others will be offered to all attendees – this activity will be therapeutic in nature by creating a safe, positive environment for participants to express themselves, and share positive memories.
Participants will create postcards capturing these special places through writing and images, and they will also be invited to take part in a postcard exchange with the student volunteers. This exchange will invite people to send postcards to each other when they visit places or go on holiday.
The sessions will be very informal and relaxed, and all participants will be supported by a professional poet and our student volunteers. The focus will be on giving unconditional positive encouragement to the group, building positive memories, and boosting confidence and self-esteem. There will be plenty of time for conversations between different people and this will be supported by the trained volunteers. We will also be able to signpost people to other activities and support they might need. An additional activity will be a free raffle, the student volunteers will be responsible for raising awareness of the event and getting donations for prizes. The raffle will encourage people to attend and add some excitement to the events.
Please give details of how you will manage your project,
The project will be managed by AgeUK Canterbury. With the support of Fay Blair and our existing dementia (student champion) consult and recruit more student volunteers.
Nicky Thompson and Fay Blair will co-ordinate and manage the coffee mornings/ tea afternoons, undertake the admin, publicity and evaluation of the events.
We expect between six and ten student volunteers who will be recruited in September following an assembly presentation by Nicky and Fay to the school. (If necessary to increase the student volunteer numbers we will run an assembly at another Canterbury school with the dementia champion). They will be trained by Fay and Nicky as to what is needed for the events – this will include a couple of Dementia Friends session to be agreed with the Year Group teacher leads.