Somerset care home residents get creative

Artwork created by five elderly residents at Camelot House in Wellington has been shown to the public.

The exhibition was the culmination of the Handmade Wellbeing project between Somerset-based Superact and three partner institutions in Finland, Austria and Estonia.

Project manager Janine Stedman said: “We use the arts to help improve health and well-being in various community settings. The aim of this particular project was to help people with dementia maintain stronger links with a fading past.

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“Our participants found focusing on their hands very empowering. There is an often-misplaced perception of people with dementia sitting with closed hands on their laps. The work that the group at Camelot House produced amply demonstrates that they can still reach out and engage with their inner creativity.

“Our hosts at Camelot House made us very welcome and both staff and residents were so enthusiastic about having us there and producing the lovely artwork. We are very much hoping to work together again.”

The Camelot House residents have been working on a clay tile wall hanging, bearing the imprint of their own hand for over a month, with support from Somerset ceramicist Mary Kembery, project lead-artist Jon Lincoln Gordon and Wellington artist Ruth Fielder.

The participants have produced individual templates from which they have developed clay models, finished off with a variety of textures and paints. The completed wall hanging will be returned to Camelot House after the exhibition and displayed for residents and families to enjoy.

Clare Woodhead, operations manager for Camelot Care, said: “There is evidence that this kind of project has a positive effect on support staff as well as residents because it’s such a great way of keeping people with dementia engaged and stimulated.

“Benefits for participants can include a reduction in drug usage, and for care home operators such activities can contribute to reducing staff turnover so it’s a winner all round, really, and we’d be delighted to get more involved.”

The art exhibition was preceded by a one-day conference examining the issues covered over the two years the Handmade Wellbeing project has been running, focusing on why the use of creativity in care homes is so important.

The project attracted €46,000 (£40,000) worth of European funding, under the Erasmus scheme, to promote study of and share best practices for learning, and the partners will now jointly develop an education model to coach arts and crafts professionals and educators to work with the elderly in care.

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