I have worked with many partnership organisations to deliver events and recently worked with Fay Blair, Simon Langton Girls Grammar School and Age UK Canterbury to create the Westgate Gardens tree trail leaflet.
The main goal of ‘Talking Trees’ was to help to build more dementia-friendly communities and offer ongoing opportunities for older people to lead more active, fulfilling lives. Following school-based training sessions – to learn more about dementia, mental health, and the needs of older people – students were introduced to AgeUK Canterbury’s day centre and residents at Cranmer House sheltered housing scheme.
Students helped to facilitate small group arts activities, ‘memory and wisdom tree’ making and crafting activities, supported by professional artists, also including the celebratory events held in May and June.
A highlight was devising and launching a Tree Trail for Canterbury’s Westgate gardens which students designed with older people in mind. They helped guide older people around the trail, took part in creative workshops with artists and the public. A few led music recitals over the afternoon tea organised in Tower House.
The public’s feedback gathered through survey forms and from participants at the celebratory events, was encouraging and positive, showing that many people enjoyed the programme.
The project was highly successful in many ways. Over a programme of organised visits, relationships and friendships formed with the older people. Students’ perceptions of older people changed. They understood better the values, needs, vulnerabilities and challenges that older people face.
Students developed in confidence; a range of social, communication, team-working and reflective learning skills. Some continued with more befriending or volunteering work, whilst others realised that they want to support or study and work in the caring professions.
Several have become champions to inspire others at school Assemblies, to get other students involved in a new, similar wellbeing project.