WE have become very successful in adding years to life in so many cases – now the challenge is to add life to those years.
That was the message delivered by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly TD at the launch of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme strategy at Dunmanway Community Hospital.
Arts for Health is an inter-agency model of partnership providing year-round cultural and creative opportunities for residents of community hospitals and day care centre service users across West Cork since 2005.
The interagency partnership is made up of four bodies, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork Education and Training Board and Cork County Council who have worked together for over 12 years to realise this programme.
The plan sets out to increase choice and accessibility and outlines actions towards an inclusive way of working that supports people living with dementia, as it is estimated that there are 55,000 people in Ireland living with the condition with that figure predicted to rise significantly.
Ann O’Connor, advisor to the Arts Council of Ireland commended the work of West Cork Arts Centre for coordinating the programme.
She highlighted ‘the vital role of Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre in co-ordinating the inter agency partners, in particular the work of programme manager, Justine Foster who also supports the artists in the delivery of the programme and in their wider practice.’
Also important to note, she said, is the programme has access to many skilled and talented artists who have developed a high level of expertise in working with older people.’
Gabrielle O’Keeffe, head of social care, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said: ‘The transition from living at home to living in a residential centre for older people is one of the most challenging life changes that any of us will experience.
‘The Arts for Health programme in this setting provides an opportunity for self-expression and autonomy for residents which the HSE is pleased to support as part of the social model of care.’
The real evidence of the programme’s success is in the atmosphere in wards as described by the director of nursing, Theresa Healy Kingston from Dunmanway Community Hospital, who said: ‘The Arts for Health Partnership Programme clearly hits its aim of enabling choice, social inclusion and equitable access to arts for older people in West Cork. It can be seen in the wards enhancing the mood of our residents, helping them socially, emotionally in their physical and mental wellbeing.’
A short film called Poem Film made by residents of Bantry General Hospital, St Joseph’s Ward during the programme with artist Colm Rooney and Tess Leak was shown at the launch and can be viewed, with the strategy, at artsforhealthwestcork.com