About your organisation/community group?
Age Exchange has 35 years’ experience of combatting loneliness and improving the wellbeing of people with dementia and their carers through the arts (visual, dance, music) from our community hub in Blackheath, which also includes an award-winning café, library, space hire and classes, and through working in partnership across the UK. We have 138 volunteers and support at least 600 older people each year.
Our independently evaluated, evidence-based Reminiscence Arts (RA) intervention is proven to improve quality of life (Royal Holloway University of London, 2014). Through art (visual, music, dance) using all senses (particularly important for non-verbal people with advanced dementia), people with dementia and their carers are listened to, empowered to explore and share their experiences (past and present) and reconnect with others. RA sessions are person-centred, tailored to the needs and interests of each group. On-going meaningful participation improves mood, relationships and helps carers build support networks and resilience.
How you have refocused your work/services during Covid-19?
Age Exchange decided to close on Tuesday 17th March and within 5 hours of telling the team they had come up with the idea of a virtual day care service for our 150 users with dementia and their carers, the team have been amazing.
The new virtual service includes:
Telephone befriending – 2 calls a week which include signposting and information services. The calls also include a light touch mental health assessment. Anyone who moves to Red on this assessment will get the number of calls they get a week increased until we are confident their mental health has improved.
Reminiscence Arts Activity boxes – 14 days of activities in one box, delivered to your door. Our amazing reminiscence artists are designing activities to help improve mental health and the mood and engagement of someone with dementia. Carers will have something that they can help the person they care for focus in the weeks that they are self-isolating.
The first boxes went out on Friday 24th March. They include simple puzzles like word searches but also arts activities as an example in the first box there is a handmade folded paper flower with instructions on how to assemble it, sketches to copy with reminiscence questions attached to promote discussion. The feedback so far has been really positive. The boxes have also featured in ‘Hello’ magazine.
Movement, singing and music appreciation – as a follow on to the boxes we are making a series of DVD’s with our arts practioners. The benefit of using our own team to star in the film is they will be recognised by the service users so it brings familiarity and friendship into their home The first is around seated movement to music to keep people mobile, designed to be uplifting and fun based on the ‘Use or it or lose it’ methodology. The second theme is around singing and music appreciation helping people to maintain good breathing capacity through warm up exercises and songs.
There is one activity box and one DVD delivered each month at two week intervals which should between them cover activities for every day.
Do you have a link to your website or social media?
Feedback from those who Age Exchange have helped
“Hope you and rest of team are well and keeping safe. Just wanted to say what an excellent activity box, so well thought out and entertaining. Please thank team responsible. We do miss you all. Sending a pic of one of activity, hopefully! Not very good with technology. We have completed 4 things so far. Brian has short term concentration but also useful for me to focus. Love to you all and take care.” June and Brian
“I’m overwhelmed by the box of goodies you guys are amazing. Thank you so much from mum and me. She has already done the tissue paper flower and we did a few quizzes this morning. Take care.” Toni and Kathleen.
Message from H and H attending K’ Café (this is a group for people with young onset dementia, under 65): “the boxes are good, we’ve done a lot of activities and love the info on hand washing. We laminated it and put it in the bathroom.”
“Thank you for your efforts, I admire you all for making it ready. I have done some activities; I really enjoyed the blossom.” Also: “Thank you for phoning, it’s a lifeline, it keeps us going.” Dorothy.