March 10 2014

‘Active Age’ – Arts Workshops with Older People

Visual Arts Group

by Alison McGann, Photographer/Visual Arts Worker

“Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter.” (Mark Twain)

For the last three months – once a week – I have had the pleasure of working with two groups of V2C residents at Llys Cynffig, Pyle and Llys Ton, Kenfig Hill. The workshops (an introduction to arts techniques) were part of a 8 week pilot project which gave the residents the opportunity to see if they would enjoy spending some time being creative through the medium of arts and crafts.

On my very first day I had a warm welcome from both groups. After the workshop at Llys Cynffig I was helped by a resident who was concerned about me carrying all my books and materials needed for the workshop. He piled them onto his walker and insisted he take them right to my car. At Llys Ton a few hours later an American gentleman also accompanied me to the car, concerned for my safety in the dark. We laughed when I joked about the fact we were in Kenfig Hill not New York!

Over the following weeks, while taking photographs working with watercolour paints, creating photomontages, making pieces from clay, it became obvious that painting was a favourite. Some people started buying their own materials and continuing through the week – with their new found hobby – in their own time. We moved onto acrylic paints and canvases, and before I knew it water-colour paints were being handed down to grandchildren in preference for the superior acrylics.

The six weeks had passed and I was really touched to hear how enthusiastic the groups were to keep the sessions going; even happy to pay towards the cost themselves, if it made the difference between the Arts workshops continuing or not. Thanks to Anna Evans, Public Health Projects Officer in Bridgend, and a donation from the tenants, we were able to continue for a further six weeks.

As I look back on the time I have spent with them, I feel the warmth of their friendliness, their kindness and their general good humour that they have, week in week out, regardless of their troubles. I hope they have enjoyed my company as much as I did theirs.’

We had some excellent feedback in our project evaluation from participants:

What did you enjoy most during the classes?

“Trying something new – I always liked art as a spectator but never participated.”

“It gets you out – If I wasn’t here I’d be stuck in my flat.”

“Pleased to have started something new – never picked up a paintbrush before, but will definitely continue after the course has finished.”

What benefits do you feel you have experience from taking part in these classes?

“Made friends”; “More confident to take part”; “Less isolation”; “More confident and less anxious”; “More confident”; “Nice pastime”; “Enjoy looking at everyone else’s artwork”; “Something to enjoy and look forward to”; “Keeps the mind active.”

Further comments?

“Alison was very helpful and knowledgeable.”

“The tutor is inspirational.”

“Alison is brilliant!”

“It’ll be a sad day when it finishes …”