The Creating Conversations gardening activity kit is a fascinating idea which promotes communication among elderly people living with Dementia. The idea sprang from a participatory arts programme at Bo'ness Hospital with NHS Forth Valley: Each session takes place at the same table covered with the same enormous sheet of paper. As the conversations flows, artists Malcy Duff and Déirdre ní Mhathúna, draw on the paper and encourage the participants to join in. Then, each week the paper table cloth is laid out and people are able to gather round with a cup of tea. The illustrations are visual and social clues for picking up conversations from the previous week and also record the significant events and memories of the group. This has been developed into the new activity kit, which includes a tablecloth to visually record and encourage conversations.
More information about how the product can inspire humour and decrease agitation during the sessions:
"In almost every session I attended, humour played a huge role. There was a lot of awkwardness around subjects like art and gardening where some people felt like they had knowledge and maybe others didn't. People often made light of it and built up conversations around humour and funny stories or attitudes that they had, and it just brought a social dynamic and encouraged more conversation."
"There were definitely observations that people were showing and expressing directly that they were feeling less anxious once they got started with the activity kit than when they sat down to do the activity. People would want something to fiddle with - a lot of people used the tablecloth as a stimulus and the objects on the table and looking at the images so even when people didn't want to communicate as part of the bigger conversation, they were still engaging with the product and with the group, participating and making choices. There was a lot of non-verbal communication."
Creating Conversations will be on display at Forth Valley Hospital until December 2016.