A few of the Tangible Memories team attended the “Art, Death & Candy” event at the Arnos Vale cemetery yesterday evening. A discussion was led by artist Julia Vogl and Dr Jon Troyer about the possibilities of future memorials and their role within society. During the process gumballs were used to cast a vote on the factors the participants found to be most important. Continue reading
Helen recently convened a symposium at the British Society of gerontology on ‘co-designing technologies with older people’. One of the attendees at the symposium wrote about the seminar in a blogpost. we’ve reposted it below. Thanks Karen for permission to repost here!
A good conference can help you re-assess your own work. Perhaps not in an extreme way. Perhaps more as if a torch has been aimed loosely at some previously dim and dusty corner. Sometimes a single phrase in a presentation will do it, or conversation outside the official business of the event, in the sun, over a glass of wine, say.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if the latter had happened more than once during this year’s weather-blessed annual BSG Conference 2017 in Swansea. However, for me, attending my first (but certainly not last) of these events, the lightbulb moment came in a symposium led by Helen Manchester on the subject of co-designing creative technologies for later life. Manchester cited Myriam Winance’s wonderful definition of ‘care’ and I have been carrying it around in my head ever since:
‘To care is to tinker, i.e. to meticulously explore, “quibble,” test, touch, adapt, adjust, pay attention to details and change them, until a suitable arrangement (material, emotional, relational) has been reached.’ (Winance, 2010, p. 111)
My own doctoral work explores the methodological challenges of researching and evaluating arts activities intended to enhance the health and wellbeing of the community of people affected by dementia. I am interested in ideas of co-production in research and implementation of arts activities themselves. I am looking at how we uncover the mechanisms for changes that occur when an artist and people with dementia ‘do art’ in the kinds of varied and complex contexts in which arts activities take place. I am hopeful that we will find ways to recognise, capture and evaluate these changes more effectively.
I have been interviewing artists who work with people with dementia, as well as those who manage, organise, fund and commission and research or evaluate such work. Artists draw attention to flexibility and the interdependence of elements in their practice. They refer to the affective and material relationships that develop both between those involved in an arts activity and with the artistic and technical resources used. They will also often talk about the collective character of artistic encounters. A good artist, working with people with dementia, will ‘care’ in just the way that Winance describes.
Manchester and other speakers in the symposium spoke about the methodological implications of their work for co-production with people with dementia, including the need to challenge disciplinary assumptions and boundaries. All of this has pointed me to a new set of ideas I can use to explore my subject.
So, for me, the three days of BSG 2017 would have been well worth it for these thoughts alone. However, there were plenty of other highlights. In her keynote on the first day, Dawn Brooker, reflected on various elements of post-diagnostic support for people with dementia and their families, talked about her work on the Meeting Centres support programme, and reminded delegates that, rather than ‘us’ and ‘them’, there should only be ‘us’. She cited the Dementia Action Alliance’s new Dementia Statements, a rallying call to improve the lives of people living with dementia and to recognise that they shouldn’t be treated differently because of their diagnosis.
The ambitious cARTrefu Project has seen over 1000 art workshops being delivered in care home across Wales between 2015-2017 and Kat Algar-Skaifepresented exciting preliminary findings from the evaluation. Julian West and Caroline Welsh described their intuitive, adaptable, improvisational work as professional musicians on Wigmore Hall’s long-running Music for Life programme of creative workshops in care settings with people with dementia. Lots more caring and ‘tinkering’ going on in both these places, I noted. There were also interesting presentations on visual and arts-based methodologies, particularly useful in eliciting responses from research participants that might not otherwise be possible.
One of the joys of a conference spread over three days and with such a diverse programme, is that you are able follow your own interests AND leave space for the unexpected. In the last session I attended, Joachim Duyndammade an argument for the resilience-enhancing power of moral exemplars for older people. He introduced me to a series of photographic portraits – The Widows of Rawagede by photographer Suzanne Liem – capturing the faces of women who sued the Dutch government for war-crimes against their husbands committed in 1947. These hauntingly beautiful images will stick in my memory for a long time.
I also had the opportunity during the conference to present my own work in progress to a generous and thoughtful audience and to have a good discussion afterwards. The vast expanse of the University of Swansea’s Bay Campus beach, minutes from the main conference hall, let us all feel warm sand beneath our feet in between sessions. Both the catering and social activities were excellent and the academic programme over the three days was tightly and interestingly scheduled. I am very grateful to the BSG Bursaries Panel for the generous award which enabled me to attend.
We’ve been working with Y5 pupils at St Stephen’s C of E Junior School in Bristol over the last 4 months because they have been regularly visiting nearby Deerhurst care home to participate in intergenerational activities with some of the residents. We, the research team at Bristol University, together with the gifted activities coordinator at Deerhurst and the Alive! activities presenter, Niki, have delighted in watching how the pupils have grown in confidence over the sessions. We have also delighted in watching how relationships have developed among those participating to the point that when an older resident is not present at a session their absence is immediately commented upon by the pupils and they are much missed. As the teacher who has been escorting the pupils to the Parlour of Wonder sessions reflected at the end of term that: “We have built up some very special bonds with the residents and staff of the care home and we hope to continue to work with them in the future.”
I certainly hope so; long may it continue!
Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite photos from the Parlour of Wonder with the St Stephen’s pupils:
Hand-clapping games have ruled the school play ground for centuries, but who knew they were such a wonderful inter-generational facilitator in care homes, as well as tried and tested social bonding activities between friends in the playground?
During the first Parlours of Wonder sessions held in our partner care settings between residents and local school pupils, it was the hand-clapping games that provoked the most memories, conversation and physical interaction between residents and pupils! …Just like the proverb informs us, “you can’t clap with one hand only.”
I was amazed at how enthusiastically the Year 5 pupils responded to older residents recalling the songs that accompanied their hand-clapping games when they were young, such as, ‘A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea’ and ‘My Mother Told Me (Rubber Dolly)’ . The older residents were also entertained by some contemporary versions that pupils confidently gave renditions of, however, whilst the lyrics might have changed across generations, the basic hand-clapping sequences had not.
Hand-clapping accompanied by singing, was an activity that facilitated interaction between the school pupils and older residents, because it is an activity shared across the generations strongly associated with childhood and school, as well as being valuable because it is a physical, multisensory activity that does not exclude those with restricted mobility, hearing or vision impairment, nor those with dementia. To that we say, put your hands together and applaud (loudly!)
One of our project partners, Blaise Weston Court extra care facility, held an Open Day on Friday 31st March. It provided an invaluable opportunity to meet a group of Year 5 pupils from a local primary school (Oasis Long Cross) who will be participating in our Parlours of Wonder project after the Easter break.
The pupils were intrigued by the objects they found in the Parlour of Wonder room located on the ground floor of Blaise Weston Court. A series of boxes that are chronologically labelled with the different decades through the Twentieth century particularly grabbed their attention. They rummaged in the boxes and marvelled at landline telephone sets, black and white family photographs from the 1930s, workmen’s tools and various board games, but the biggest surprise and wonder was reserved for the record player, vinyl records and bed warming pan. A female pupil who had never seen vinyl records before suggested they were “giant DVDs” and one of the boys, puzzled, like the other pupils, over the bed warming pan. When one of the residents at Blaise Weston Court asked them what they thought it was, nearly all of the pupils suggested it was a pizza oven!
These responses made us all laugh out loud because we all appreciated in that moment how much we take for granted with regards to the objects we encounter and use in our daily lives. We also reflected upon how quickly a number of these objects change or become obsolete.
After a very enjoyable hour or so the pupils returned to their school escorted by one of their teachers, who later emailed us to report that:”the children were buzzing after last Friday’s visit. They spent the walk back trying to work out all the historical events that would have happened while Barry has been alive!” (Barry is one of the participating residents on the Parlours of Wonder project)
Meeting the pupils from Oasis Long Cross was a delight for all involved and reminds us of the importance and value of intergenerational interaction, story telling and knowledge exchange. Long may it continue!
The 1st of March is a significant date in the British calendar this year; the feast day of St. David (the Patron Saint of Wales) and also, for many households up and down the country, a reason for eating too many pancakes (Ash Wednesday)!
But for Helen and I, it was also a special day because we paid a visit to St. Stephen’s CoE junior school to meet 6 wonderful Y5 pupils who had been selected to participate on our Parlours of Wonder project. These pupils’ parents and guardians had also generously given their consent so that their child can participate in activities with older residents at Deerhurst care home in Soundwell, Bristol. We will be running these activities and visits over the following months.
The pupils were adept at using ipads and the StoryCreator app so we think they will be confident at helping the older residents at Deerhurst navigate the technology. Some of the pupils have experience of visiting a relative in care and/or with dementia and Helen and I found their views on dementia and care homes fascinating. Without naming the pupils, one told us that a care home is not a prison because prisons have “mean guards” but care homes “have people taking care” and another pupil who visits a grandparent in a care home said when they go to the care home “I see nature and it’s very pretty”.
So we think they’re going to love visiting Deerhurst and the residents because it’s a vibrant, caring community with many activities for residents that involve nature and being outside…the pupils were very excited to learn of the beach at Deerhurst!
It was a privilege to meet the pupils and their dedicated teacher Ms Lowrie!
Helen Manchester has been invited to speak at two seminars over the next couple of months. Firstly in Edinburgh at the Moray House School of education on March 7th.
And secondly at The Institute of Education (UCL) on April 5th.
If you’re in Edinburgh or London and able to make either of these events do come and say hello!
We were delighted recently to be contacted by Emily Nelson at Scarborough Museums Trust. She wanted to talk to us about a project idea they had in which they wanted to use the Tangible Memories StoryCreator app . We were able to offer Emily advice and will continue to work with them as their project develops. It’s great to see the app being used in different parts of the country. Emily has sent the following update on their project, ‘Outside the Box’:
Scarborough Museums Trust and social housing provider Yorkshire Coast Homes are pleased to introduce the ‘Outside the Box’ project, a 12 month reminiscence project which will run monthly reminiscence sessions in 10 different community locations across Scarborough. The sessions will be a great chance for the older people in our community to socialise and meet new people, facilitated through objects from the museum’s handling collections, and the remembrance of the past. Each session will also involve young volunteers, who will be offered oral history and reminiscence training. Once funding has been secured to purchase a number of ipads, these young people will be able to use cutting edge technology, in the form of the Tangible Memories Story Creator App, as they record important oral histories from the local community. We are very excited to work alongside the Parlours of Wonder project through using and providing feedback on this wonderful app.
This pilot project, which builds on the Objects of Escape initiated during Tangible Memories, explores the therapeutic potential of cutting-edge technologies, to bring nature and natural environments into healthcare settings to enhance well-being.
Using sound and image archives from the BBC Natural History Unit, we are exploring multi-sensory and immersive experiences, such as Virtual Reality, tactile ‘Mutual Instruments’ and a rocking chair that transports the sitter to the natural world through evocative soundscapes.
This collaborative project is working alongside healthcare practitioners, families, and teenage and young adult patients at the Bristol Oncology Centre, and older people living with dementia, and their families and carers at Brunelcare’s Deerhurst home.
Helen Manchester (Social Scientist)
Kirsten Cater (Computer Scientist)
Heidi Hinder (Artist, Designer, Maker)
Steve Symons (Creative technologist and sculptor)
Esther Ingram (Archives Manager, BBC Natural History Unit)
Ailish Heneberry (Commercial and Business Manager, BBC Natural History Unit)
Sam Hume (Producer, BBC Natural History Unit)
Joe Hope (Researcher, BBC Natural History Unit)
Lesley Hobbs (Manager, Deerhurst care home)
Jamie Cargill (Lead Nurse, Teenage Cancer Trust, Teenager and Young Adults cancer service South West)
Fran Hardman (Well-being co-ordinator, Teenage Cancer Trust)
Hannah Lind (Youth Support Co-ordinator, Teenage Cancer Trust)
BBC Natural History Unit
This pilot project has been supported by:
There has been a great sense of expectation on the Teenage and Young Adult cancer ward at the Bristol Oncology Centre, surrounding the start of our Virtual Reality trials in partnership with the BBC Natural History Unit. We have been working with Esther Ingram, Archives Project Manager, to share some of the BBC’s phenomenal natural history programming in this new context, with a new audience. Together, we are keen to find out if bringing nature into the TYA cancer ward through technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) can help to improve patients’ and supporters’ well-being during long-term hospital stays.
A group of 30 patients, relatives, friends and staff gathered over a two day period, to take part and try out the 360° immersive virtual reality experiences, often for the first time, or simply to watch these sessions in action.
There were a variety of technologies and films on offer, including the HTC Vive headset with bluetooth sensors and hand controllers for a more physically active VR experience. This was set up in the social space of the Chat Room to give people the chance to move and walk around in their virtual worlds.
Once this tech was rigged up, which takes about an hour, the VR experiences were ready to play. Patients could choose whether they wanted to immerse themselves underwater and visit a coral reef or a shipwreck, watch a Blue Whale swim past, or try and touch virtual jellyfish. These particular VR films are freely available online (cost-effective for charities like the Teenage Cancer Trust, should they wish to access them in future), and have been produced using computer generated imagery. Our teams are interested in the difference between people’s perception of ‘real’ nature (as filmed by the BBC) and digitally mediated nature through these CGI animations (produced by WEVR). Which is more effective in this context?Does it make any difference?
As we compared and contrasted versions of nature and VR, and interviewed participants about their experiences, all the volunteers became fully immersed in their virtual landscapes:
Alongside the more complex, expensive and physical HTC Vive VR kit, the BBC team set up an alternative using the Samsung Gear. This has the advantage of being completely portable, requiring only the virtual reality headset, headphones and a smart phone. As a result, we were able to share these VR experiences with patients who were unable to join in the communal Chat Room session while they were currently bed-bound and isolated in their bedrooms.
On the second day of our VR trial, the Samsung Gear headset was on offer again to the wider group and included a selection of quieter, more therapeutic nature films in VR. There was a sub-aqua diving experience in the tropical waters of Costa Rica, a jungle documentary, a 360° woodland dawn chorus and an immersive guided tour of a pre-historic dinosaur presented by David Attenborough, each lasting about five minutes. Although it’s not possible to experience virtual reality without the appropriate technology, here’s a hint of what people were watching:
Here is some of the patients’ and supporters’ feedback from their first experiences of Virtual Reality:
‘I can see [VR] being something that if you’re stressed or anxious, just pop this on and get away, to feel like you’re somewhere else – that would be when I would use it. I think that would be quite a good thing to do’. (Holly, patient)
‘I didn’t really know what to expect, then when I put it on, I was like, whoa! I’m under the sea!’ (Laura, patient)
‘You do lose yourself. You definitely lose yourself. Which is important being on this ward, and going through what the kids have got to go through. … To be honest, it just enables you to get away from this clinical environment which is paramount.’ (Suzie, parent)
‘I could just zone out completely and watch [VR] for a good hour or two or something like that. It’s so good, it’s amazing. … I’m well into it! I am ridiculously stressed out and anxious, so this has been really helpful. … This has real helped today. I’ve been mad stressed all day … so this has been real good to come and just chill out for a bit. So yeah, thank you.’ (Matt, patient)
After such positive responses, we look forward to continuing our valuable collaboration with the Teenage and Young Adult cancer service, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the BBC Natural History Unit, for the well-being and benefit of those in long-term hospital care.
During the second day of our rocking chair trial at Deerhurst, we were also testing out a new handheld prototype, developed by creative technologist and sculptor Steve Symons. This wooden prototype plays nature sounds and music when it is picked up, tapped, shaken, smoothed and generally explored through touch. The top surface is embedded with pebbles and pieces of wood and conceals the network of electronics and programming that is hidden inside. Underneath, on the base of the prototype is a discreet speaker.
One of the first participants to visit us in the Garden Room this morning was a resident who is new to Deerhurst and just settling in. Betty was a very jovial character who really enjoyed shaking the handheld prototype and touching the different textures of embedded stone and wood. On contact with her hands and triggered by the movement, the sound of seagulls started squawking at Betty. She laughed and joked that the birds must be hungry ‘because we were mean and had forgotten to feed them!’
When Betty tried out the rocking chair for the first time, she put her head back, closed her eyes and started singing along to one of the songs that she recognized. She reminisced about her parents as she listened to the poems and nature sounds, and described her experience in the rocking chair as ‘lovely, very moving’ and commented that she ‘could stay here all day’.
Joyce was the only repeat resident who had tried out the rocking chair on my previous visit. On the first test day, Joyce had been upset and in tears before sitting in the chair, but after listening to the audio and rocking, she became very calm and left smiling, and generally seeming much happier. Today she closed her eyes and nodded off to sleep for most of the session.
Joyce’s goddaughter Beverly was visiting today and suggested that it would be good to have the option of an automated rocking feature on future versions of the chair, as she felt that Joyce’s condition and stage of dementia would mean that Joyce would forget to rock. Beverly also tried out the chair, finding it very comfortable and when asked about her preferred audio content, she said that she would choose to listen to poetry and short stories.
During the course of this short pilot study, thirteen different people have tested the rocking chair at Deerhurst, including care staff and family, as well as residents. We hope to secure further funding next year, in order to develop these prototypes and explore, in greater depth, the benefits of nature on well-being in dementia care.