On May 25, 2017, Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) collaborated with the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, affiliated with Mount Saint Vincent University’s Department of Family Studies and Gerontology, in hosting a community event at the People’s Place Library to celebrate the Centre’s 25th anniversary. The topic was Creative Aging, exploring how the arts contribute to aging well. The mission of the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging is to advance knowledge on aging to inform social policy and practice and enhance the quality of life of older people and their families. This Community Outreach Series was part of Nova Scotia Centre for Aging’s 25th anniversary celebrations, during which they hosted four community events throughout Nova Scotia on different aging related topics. Other communities involved were Bridgewater, Wolfville, and Halifax.
Dr. Elizabeth Brennan began the evening in Antigonish by talking about AHA! and its mission, to foster creative expression for community health, followed by an overview of AHA!’s projects for seniors. Anne Simpson introduced The Eldertree Project in which artists visited with seniors, listening and collecting their stories, then presenting them as a theatric production, The Road Home. Rachel Power talked about her Artist in Residency work at the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. Mary Partridge introduced Arts Canopy, a program for people living with dementia, offering participation in a variety of arts based programs.
Several AHA! artists then presented a snapshot of what has been happening “under the Arts Canopy” over these last eight months. They spoke about their experiences facilitating the program, shared stories and displayed artwork created by the participants. Rachel Power and Adam Tragakis both facilitated visual arts programs. They presented visuals (some are included here) and talked about their highlights. Rachel – “It was a frequent occurrence when the room would be buzzing with shared stories of this and that…..Then without realizing the shift, I would look around and see everyone very quietly focused on the task at hand and immersed in the process of creating.” Adam said, “Every one of the participants left the sessions with a smile” and that the program offered “examples of how someone can discover new ways of being creative”. Janette Fecteau and Anne Simpson talked about poetry and the special energy of the group and how it provided people of all abilities a space where they shared feelings both happy and sad, laughed and encouraged each other and felt the pride of accomplishment when their poems were read. Tom Curry told stories of the powerful responses music evokes and how memories are stimulated and muscle memory is rekindled when toes start tapping and people who may not have spoken in some time, quietly sing the words to favourite song from their youth. John Graham-Pole helped us wrap up the evening by being our “tree”. All present were invited to join in a participatory activity where we pinned on notes on the “tree” telling how art and creativity has affected our lives.
It was a great opportunity to share the Arts Canopy work provincially and spread the word about arts and creative expression as it enriches the lives of seniors.
More information about Arts Canopy