cARTrefu, meaning to reside in Welsh, is a two year programme run by Age Cymru which has aimed to increase access to arts experiences for the elderly residing in care homes all across the country. The programme has recruited sixteen artists working in four disciplines: visual arts, words, performing arts and music.
Claire was lucky enough to be involved in this project in the visual arts and developed new embroidery work to show at the exhibition at Craft in the Bay entitled ‘Voices from the Edge’ alongside four others with Claire's work a response to time spent working with the elderly and those with dementia in care homes across Wales.
Through the sensory, tactile and thought-provoking felt making activities led with this groups of women and men, a creative stimulus was engaged, prompting the residents to share wonderful stories from their younger days, often regarding their professional life, families and often war stories. The ladies mostly enjoyed the conversations about embroidery and pattern cutting, sharing stories on how they’d make their own dresses to go dancing with their future husbands and their experiences during the war time with the ‘make do and mend’ initiative.
Through these creative engagements, the residents learned more about each other all over again: information perhaps forgotten, and even being able to rekindle a forgotten friendship they had formed but over time lost those memories. They may remember less but these tasks I have found can re-start conversation and give them some comfort of familiarity of the ‘stranger’ that sits at their side.
During the visits and noted change they smile more, talk more and interact more: there is a warmth, an energy of positive feeling of their achievements, and pleasure and satisfaction in participating. It would be true to say such creativity provides stimulus, engagement and wellbeing for those in their later years of life.