Keeping creative during COVID

9th November, 2020

The Community Makers network are now meeting online monthly to hear experiences from fellow Community Makers, and discuss the evolving challenges of running dementia support groups through the COVID pandemic.

This month, the community had a presentation from Rebecca Packwood from Age Exchange describing how they had successfully moved their in-person creative art groups to a distributed, at-home model.

Rebecca shared how Age Exchange has adapted its face-to-face arts-based reminiscence activities to reach people at home in London and Manchester. This opened a fantastic conversation around ways to keep people affected by dementia connected in an interactive way, without having to spend hours online.

Age Exchange are delivering boxes to over 150 people each month to the homes of people with dementia to help provide creative and engaging activities. It was fascinating to hear how they tailored individual boxes to suit the needs of the recipient, for example to cater for poor manual dexterity or allergies.

They are also providing two boxes to some recipients so that grandparents and grandchildren could do the same activities together, but remotely, providing an added connection and social activity for both generations. 

It is also worth noting the tips around providing this service safely, including dating the boxes to help ensure they are left 3 days before being opened to reduce the potential for transmitting infection, and not attaching names and addresses to undelivered boxes to protect the identity of recipients.

Furthermore Rebecca described the value of having consistency in the volunteers who delivered the boxes to individuals, in order to build a rapport through door-step conversation that served to provide meaningful contact in itself, as well as alert the group to individuals who seemed to be struggling. However the seasonal changes in weather was making this valuable contact more difficult as the cold and rain gets in the way of even short conversations through an open door.

Rebecca also described how they were trying out individual art sessions delivered over the telephone between artists and individuals who have an existing relationship from previous face-to-face meetings.

This presentation led to a great discussion among the group around the value of online – offline hybrid approaches to running support groups during lockdown. We discussed the value and options for remaining ‘open’ for face-to-face meetings under guidelines for the current English lockdown, and various techniques and insights for making group Zoom sessions accessible for people affected by dementia. 

It is great to see the community starting to build a momentum around meeting and discussing issues, and to welcome new members each time we meet. 

Tim Senior will be speaking at our next session on the 2nd December 2020 about Memory Jars and running a heritage community project with people with dementia in the current climate.

Image: A reminiscence box provided by Age Exchange