BANTRY woman Sheila Goggin, who celebrated her 89th birthday on St Stephen’s Day, recently visited Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre as part of its new In the Picture programme.
The programme offers opportunities for older people – living in residential settings or being cared for in their own homes in the West Cork area – to participate in bespoke facilitated experiences in the galleries.
The In the Picture concept was originally rolled-out by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and is designed to give older people and people living with dementia an opportunity to participate in art and cultural venues.
Sheila said the experience was wonderful: ‘We walked around and looked at all the art and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I do a bit of art myself and would like to do more of these types of visits,’ she said.
According to Sheila’s son Finbarr Goggin: ‘This visit, and indeed the other artistic ventures that Sheila is involved in, have made a remarkable difference to her life.
‘Spending a great deal of time at home leads to boredom and feelings of isolation but when mam is out and about participating in art and other cultural activities, she is at her best.
‘She comes home full of life and buzzing from the activity. The In the Picture programme involves meaningful participation and I can see a huge difference in mam when she returns from such activities. A day or so after the visit, mam drew a haunting picture of a tree blowing during a gale.’
According to Sarah Cairns, who works as an activities co-ordinator at Bantry General Hospital, by taking part In the Picture, Sheila’s inner love for art and all things of a cultural nature became hugely apparent and she actively engaged with a selection of artworks on exhibit. ‘At one stage both she and the other participants broke into song inspired by the display,’ said Sarah.
In the Picture delivers direct access to and participation in the West Cork Arts Centre’s exhibition programme and a sensitive space for conversational and sensory contribution. The discussions are facilitated by artists and gallery educators trained in dementia care and communication skills.
The programme is overseen by a committed group of local partners from the HSE, Cork Education & Training Board, West Cork Carers, Cork County Council, and West Cork Arts Centre who see at first hand the benefits that it brings to people our communities.
Sarah Cairns said that art lights up the faces of people with dementia and their carers.
‘It is overwhelmingly powerful. There is an unusual amount of ability available to people with dementia to connect with and appreciate art in all its forms, and also an ability to connect with their own creative selves, this is what In the Picture is offering people a chance to tap into. Our sessions are about making observations, describing and building connections. Allowing each person the time to comfortably observe and experience the space and artwork.’
Programme manager Justine Foster explained that there is now a trained team of professional artists delivering the programme.
‘We provide ongoing professional development support for both healthcare and arts professionals in the area of arts and dementia in order to extend and develop the local pool of expertise and encourage dialogue between arts and health practitioners who are currently working with people who are living with memory loss and dementia,’ she said.
This new development in Skibbereen is part of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork, which has been delivering a hugely successful arts and cultural programme for the last 10 years in community hospitals and day centres across West Cork.
It is estimated that currently there are over 40.000 people with dementia in Ireland. With the population ageing, however, this means that this figure will triple over the next 20 years, as ageing remains one of the single strongest risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease – the most common form of dementia).