You might think that during long months of lockdown, arts activities would have ground to a halt in care homes of all places. You would be wrong.
In a year when so much media coverage of care homes has focused on delays in coronavirus testing and scarcity of PPE, it is more important than ever that people mark the National Day of Arts In Care Homes. It is an opportunity to celebrate the many imaginative, creative ways in which care homes and other organisations have gone on drawing on the arts to brighten residents’ lives throughout the pandemic.
This year’s theme is #CreativeCommunities, and connection is all.
Barriers thrown up be closing many care homes to visitors proved little barrier to so many organisations. Technology has allowed many care homes to continue to connect with the arts. The Smiling Sessions, which began sharing music with care home residents ten years ago, is one organisation to have drawn on technology’s power. They have just launched the second series of their Smiling Remotely Singalongs, this time featuring special guest KT Tunstall.
Nor has technology proved the only solution. Many care homes have run art and craft activities within the home, with residents making flags or bunting to mark this year’s VE Day commemorations.
In some ways, care homes have become a more viable focus for creativity than other settings. While so many support groups, choirs or painting classes have closed for the foreseeable future, care homes find themselves in a very different position. Where support groups have halted because people are unable to gather to paint or sing, care home residents already live in a communal group environment. Some community groups have moved online, but this has not always proved possible, and their closure has left a gaping hole in many participants’ lives. Another side of the wider picture.
Many people who perhaps never gave life in a care home a second thought before Covid-19 struck, have now begun to imagine and to understand. It is a happy irony that it is at a time when care homes have become more insular than ever, that people have opened their minds to try to reach out.
As care homes continue to battle the invisible threat posed by coronavirus and as winter nears, the National Day of Arts In Care Homes shines a light on residents’ everyday lives and everyday needs. It highlights music and other art forms as a tool to build connections: to enable residents to relate to each other and to the wider world. When two thirds of care home residents live with a dementia diagnosis, relating to other people through art, music or other creativity may be easier than communicating verbally.
So let’s celebrate and recognize all the #CreativeCommunities across the country for their perseverance and commitment.