How did a boring, monotonous job at a Seattle Fish Market turn into a place of fun and positive energy? Through the use of FISH, a four step philosophy to making better workplaces:
choosing one’s attitude,
playing at work,
making someone’s day, and
When Steve Lundin, the FISH Philosopher, put a call out to any aged care provider to use his help to create more meaning and purpose for both staff and elders, Australia’s Blue Care responded, and soon after followed the Play Up program, bringing much joy and laughter to nursing home residents and changing staff attitude through allowing them to have more fun in the day to day care of the elderly. Residents are happier and the staff go home feeling happier too! Play is not often associated with places of work, yet play is what sparks the imagination, promotes team work and fosters creativity. Playfulness can evoke emotional connections with people that can otherwise be hard to reach.
This week I met with such a woman from Northside OWN (Older Women's Network); a volunteer organisation that promotes the rights, dignity and well being of older women. They offer discussion groups, workshops, and recreational and cultural activities, such as Mums on Drums. North side OWN is at the Dougherty Centre in Chatswood. Third Age University is also housed there, offering a variety of courses to the retired and semi-retired. With so much on offer, the tragedy of old age is not in the passage of time, but in the running out of it!
In France, adult colour in books are outselling cookbooks. The nursing home residents were very surprised to hear this. 'Really! What types of colouring books?' asked Vicki, one of the ladies there. This week I ran a volunteer art class at Bupa Willoughby Aged Care with a group of elderly ladies. We were colouring in vintage beach scenes from the 1940's to the 1960's. All were interested to discuss and comment on the pictures: 'Is this a famous actress?' 'Where was this photo taken?' 'I haven't had a waistline like that in years!' As a group, they had not coloured in since they were children so were very amused to be partaking in this childhood activity. Colouring in is a very relaxing activity for seniors in long term care. It allows the mind to concentrate on the task at hand. It provides a means of utilising dexterity (grip/control) and a venue for self expression; 'what colour goes with blue,' asked one of the ladies. As the nursing home residents coloured in they talked about what sorts of colours and bathers they wore as young women. 'I had bathers with a belt like that,' said one, as she recalled a popular song in her youth...'she wore an incy wincy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini!'
This weeks art class in aged care was reminiscence based: Remembering fishing and food molds. I passed around vintage fish shaped molds used in the making of aspics and jellies to assist memory recall of past times related to food: foods that people cooked, what they ate, and even how they sourced or stored foods. I sketched out fish on a paper plate for the residents to paint. As they painted they spoke about how their food was sourced when they were growing up. One lived on a farm by a river and spoke about how when fishing she would beg her father to throw back the big cod as she found them too chewy. Such was the abundance of fish! Another lady spoke about cattle farming and not eating much fish whilst growing up on a farm. They stored their meats in a cool room under the house. It's always interesting to converse with the elderly in nursing homes and they enjoy having someone to tell their stories to. It highlighted for my daughter too, how much things have changed in a relatively short span of time.
Back from maternity leave, it was lovely to return to the local nursing home where I volunteer art and craft classes. As summer nears and the weather warms, I decided to run a summer fruits craft class. I prepared the cardboard fruit cut outs of apples, lemons, and oranges at home and took them in for the residents to paint. One of the ladies painted a bright yellow lemon very quickly then dotted it to make make it look like a textured lemon. All talked about the summer fruits that they look forward to eating each year, watermelon being a favourite. One of the ladies painted in an apple and decided it looked like a ladies purse, so proceeded to paint a blue criss cross zipper along the centre of it. Being so close to Christmas we painted Holly on a few of the fruits too. Once the painted fruits were dry, we glued cellophane and crepe paper to the backs of them and attached them to the window in the living room. All enjoyed making these bright and colourful sun catcher summer fruits.
This is a photo from a volunteer craft session at a local nursing home. It was during school holidays so daughter was along as a helper, sharing her enthusiasm and craft skills alongside the residents. They loved having a little one joining them in their painting. This class was based on a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers in a vase. We talked a little about Van Gogh as some of the residents were familiar with his work and life story. I sketched out twelve sunflowers for the residents to paint. We focused on shading and toning the flowers by using lighter and darker shades of brown, green, mustard and yellow, to give each flower some detail. Once each flower was painted we added them to the vase and left the work up on the dining room wall for all to enjoy.
This is an Easter bonnet craft activity. Celebrating Easter has changed a little since the nursing home residents were raising their own families. We spoke a little about tradition and a lot about chocolate, egg hunts and the Easter bunny. The ladies were interested to see how we would be making Easter bonnets from Easter egg foam stencils as this process was new to them. Once the Easter hats were made and painted, the ladies were good sports and popped them on as they walked around the nursing home demonstrating their colourful workmanship!