AHA Connects Aug 1

AHA! CONNECTS! August 1, 2023

Welcome back to AHA! CONNECTS! where we are celebrating Arts Health Antigonish’s 10-year anniversary. In this post we are sharing the AHA! projects that gathered and shared the stories of seniors in our community. Thanks for joining us!


Some years ago, Joan taught me a card game that she learned from a soldier on the train when she was a child. She had travelled with her grandmother from Newcastle to London, because her grandmother wanted to attend a meeting of the Labour Party. Joan thought this would be a real party, but instead the place was crowded with men talking and smoking. One of them said that war had been declared and that the bombing would start soon. Joan and her grandmother rushed to catch the train back to Newcastle that very night. It was September 3rd, 1939.

When I couldn’t figure out some of the rules of the card game, Joan’s face crinkled into silent laughter. She had patience in spades. She was one of those involved in the Eldertree Project at the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home and Highland-Crest Home in Antigonish. The project began in May 2014, funded by the Department of Seniors and by the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

Throughout the summer, I worked with Stacy Doiron, my writer-in-residence partner, to gather the stories of seniors in these two homes. Stacy told me about some of her experiences: “The first piece I wrote was a poetic ballad for a wonderful woman named Chrissie. I was inspired by an incredible photograph she has in her room: she’s driving a motorcycle with her friend at the Frasers Mills Fish Hatchery after World War II when they were about fourteen years old. And one man in particular, Everett, is game to try and co-write a piece with me, so we’ll see how that goes!”

We brought together all the stories we had gathered so that a group of talented young artists could make a performance out of our materials. Mary Beth Carty, a musician and visual artist; Donald MacLennan, a musician; Noella Murphy, an actor and visual artist; and Rebecca Wild, a musician and photographer, joined the Eldertree Project in June. Through the summer they gave several concerts at the two homes where we were working.

By the early winter of 2014, Mary Beth, Stacy, Donald, Noella, and Rebecca put on a series of performances based on the wealth of anecdotes, poems, tales, and music of the seniors. The Road Home was enthusiastically embraced by the community. In the year that followed, the larger story of the Eldertree Project was made into a film called The Road Home. It is a vivid documentary film about seniors by Antigonish filmmaker Corinne Dunphy. It reveals how a younger generation animated some of the experiences of an older generation, allowing the community to partake in the richness of their lives.

Anne Simpson

 Corinne’s reflection:

While rewatching ‘The Road Home’ video, I was reminded of the power in sharing human experiences intergenerationally. During the process of filming, I was able to observe the quality and care put into the program by the facilitators. I witnessed the re-telling of life events, big and small from the elders to the facilitators through warm conversations. And of course, the final collaborative performance was a great way to get community involved. Filming this project was an opportunity for me to look outwards at the many role’s individuals play in our community in the preservation of its history, and honouring the people who inhabit it.


New in 2023, A Tapestry of Tales, led by Laura Teasdale, will gather favorite stories of local seniors and shape those stories into short stories or adapt them as ballads or as scenes. The rich diversity of our region will be reflected in the voices of the seniors.

These stories will be presented to the community as podcasts played on CJFX in the winter months.

Any seniors wishing to participate are invited to email AHA! at: artshealthantigonish@gmail.com