Most of my work focuses on young families. New parents. Toddlers. Babies. It feels like that is ALL we see out there. In social media too. Happy families, happy parents. All so young and pretty if I may add...It is not often we see the other end of life. Our eldest. You know them. That lost generation; they are nearly invisible, inconvenient even. Where are you going with this Ana? I hear you say.
I am currently filming and photographing a very special group of people. Me being a choir enthusiast, I couldn't resist when I was asked to meet the Past Times Community Choir in Naas. This is how they describe what they do:
'The choir aims to provide a warm, stimulating and supportive environment for all and achieves this with the help of our team of dedicated volunteers, and through the greatly valued partnership of our host venue, McAuley Place.
Singing a widely varied repertoire and lead by musical director Sharon Murphy, choir members get the opportunity to reminisce, experience the sense of unity that choral singing evokes and benefit from the proven effects that community choir membership has on an overall sense of wellbeing.
Our greater aim is for the choir to become part of the cultural tapestry of Kildare, showcasing the value of an authentic and truly inclusive musical project.'
But this choir offers something unique. Some of their members suffer from Dementia and Alzheimer. They are collected from their nursing homes, and brought to McAuley Place, where they get to spend every Tuesday morning SINGING, having a cup of tea, cake and a chat. Some are brought by their carers, or are still well enough to come in by themselves.
I got to speak directly with the people involved in this incredible activity. Some of the things they shared with me resonated so deeply. For some people Tuesday mornings mean they get to speak with another human being (think about that again!!). For the rest of the week they may live in a very quiet home, or a nursing home away from their relatives, which in most cases visit them only from time to time.
Tuesday mornings also mean they get to interact with younger people. Imagine this. When you live in a nursing home there are not many chances you will get to interact with other generations, or be in contact with children. That is a huge loss. We all know how the grandparents feel younger having little kids around! It is hard for younger people to walk into a nursing home and engage in conversation. But if we facilitate projects like this we are providing integration, understanding, stimulation. A little bit of happiness too, I'd dare to say. I have seen this myself. When they come together to sing they are happy, they walk out happy. They are transported to another time through music. Some even remember all the words of songs they love. I witnessed a couple singing to each other and their eyes became alive. That young couple they once were was present, so vivid. That was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced behind the camera.
We are all heading to old age (hopefully!). I consider myself a creative person. Independent. Always interested in learning new things. Meeting new people. I recharge when I am around like minded friends and they inspire me in different ways. I'd like to think that essence of me will still be there at the end of my life and that there will be programmes encouraging and nurturing creativity wherever it is I may end up. Is carrying the spirit of a child in old age an ambitious goal?
I would love to know what you think about the idea of bringing creativity to nursing homes, BUT better than that, what programmes can we create that will allow our eldest to get BACK in society, bringing all generations together to interact and learn from each other? This is not a rhetoric question by the way. I am picking your brains for real and I am listening.