Using music, movement and visual arts, the free of charge programme helps both people with dementia and their carers relax and form support networks.
Park Springs Care Home employee Rose Brennan said: “Our group – Ronnie, Betty, Margaret and myself – has been attending since the first session and I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed it.
“When the group have been going back to the home they have been telling everyone about it, they get so excited; all their families and friends have heard about it and they all think that it is a wonderful idea.”
The Park Spring group are just three of around twenty six participants coming to the workshops on a regular basis.
CultureNL Arts Development Officer, Deborah McArthur, said: “It’s been really nice to see how large a group we have ended up having, and that shows the need and the want for something like this in North Lanarkshire; we have such a lovely bunch of people involved.”
Each session starts with a half hour lunch, where the group can get to know each other before the activities begin.
McArthur explained: “Having lunch at the beginning means that the group can bring the social aspect back into eating. I am a great believer in food bringing people together and I think that the time at the start, where we all chat, is really important.”
After lunch the group moves on to a warm up, which leads on to singing and acting activities.
McArthur said: “The exercises that we do allow everybody to take part at the same time; when you come to a session you get to see how much everybody laughs and enjoys it.”
Echoing this sentiment was visual artist Joe Gair.
He said: “When I was thinking of how to approach the project I wanted to bring a range of activities; some people enjoy colouring in and painting simple things, other people like to get a bit more creative, so I wanted to provide a bit of variety.”
He added: “The visual art aspect of the project is good, as people know what they are working toward, for example last week we did masks for the final show, and the group took a lot of care and time over them because they knew that they would be wearing them.”
All of the group’s crafted props and drama activities will be brought together at the end of the programme, in a show for their friends and family.
McArthur explained: “The Memory Spinners activities have no wrong answer, people can do whatever they want with the materials that we have. Then we make this fit into the end performance, and this creates a comfortable environment to work in.”
Beechwood Care Home worker, Emma Weir said: “The workshops are something new and something challenging, but they are very enjoyable.”
She added: “I came to bring Tommy and Jeanette, but I have been surprised how much I have enjoyed it myself. You get to meet new people; it welcomes anyone and everyone affected by dementia.”
Reflecting on the workshops, McArthur explained that no previous arts or performance experience is required.
She said: “I think sometimes people might be deterred by the idea of opera, or they might think that if a workshop is singing and dancing then it is not for them, but actually I would describe it as a group of people that are coming together to try different things and have fun.”