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Art project helps cut through fog of dementia

A ground-breaking art project is helping to cut through the fog of dementia at a care home in Caernarfon.

Residents at Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd care home on the outskirts of the town are taking part in Age Cymru’s flagship cARTrefu programme.

The aim of the scheme being funded by the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government and the Baring Foundation, is to encourage and celebrate creativity in older people.

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The 12-week project has been a big hit with residents at Bryn Seiont Newydd, which specialises in dementia care.

Bryn Seiont Newydd’s artist-in-residence, Nia Lloyd-Roberts, said: “It has been excellent. The fact that the project is being run over 12 weeks has meant we have had an opportunity to play with different ideas which has stimulated conversation with residents and involved them working together.

“I have seen residents become calmer, less distracted and more occupied. I’m hoping it will help us reduce challenging behaviour and help residents remain calm. “It’s also lovely to see residents singing along with each other while they work on their art projects.”

“It’s been an undoubted success and I’m glad I applied to take part in the project. It’s helped me think about delivering art projects in a different way which will benefit our residents.”

Project leader Kelly Barr explained: “So far we have worked with 156 care homes but Pendine Park is the first care organisation we have found that actually has an artist in residence which is just amazing and so refreshing.

“The project has worked incredibly well and we can point to the statistically proven impact art has had on the general well-being of both care home residents and the staff caring for them.

“We have 12 artists working on the project across Wales. The artists work in different mediums; some are dance artists, some painters, film makers or photographers. We even have a type writer artist!”

“Here at Bryn Seiont Newydd we are making prints using leaves. The session is all about encouraging staff to get involved.”

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Performing dance artist, Dymphna D’arcy who was working with her mentor, American/Welsh artist Deborah Withey, at the workshop, said: “I’m mixing the type of art I’m working on at different sessions. I’m predominately a dance artist but I can work in multi-disciplinary mediums.

“It’s amazing how the residents, even those with advanced dementia, enjoy the art work and clearly gain a great deal from it. I have really enjoyed the whole project.”

Deborah added: “It’s so refreshing to see Pendine Park employs not only an artist in residence but a musician too. That is just so forward thinking and wonderful to see.”

The sessions are going down a treat with resident Millicent Foster, who, said: “I really enjoy it and pressing leaves to make pictures has been good. We are always doing something whether it’s playing bingo or listening to music.

“I used to do a lot of knitting but I can’t do it anymore because my hands and fingers are stiff. But I like working with my friends to make something that looks nice.”

Fellow resident Daphne Egan said:

“It’s interesting and nice to see what we make. I’m not a talented artist but it’s nice to be guided and shown how to do something different.

“I don’t think I could do something like this on my own to be honest. I like to sing while we are doing the art work. Songs like Danny Boy or Abba songs like Dancing Queen.”

Bryn Seiont Newydd manager Sandra Evans said:

“The cARTrefu project is a perfect fit for the way we work at Pendine Park because the arts provide the golden thread through everything we do.

“We are passionate about using the arts, whether visual or musical, to enrich the lives of our residents and staff alike.

“That’s why we set up the Pendine Arts and Community Trust to support cultural pursuits and community activities so we can spread the message about the value of the arts.”

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