Have you ever thought about the benefits that Intergenerational work could bring to the young people in your group? The next two blogs, profile a long term intergenerational programme of work that has been delivered by The Sligo Arts Service since 1998.
The Maugherow Intergenerational project was initiated in 1998 by the Arts Office of Sligo County Council in partnership with the St Patricks National School and supported by the North Western Health Board. Maugherow is located 12 miles north of Sligo town, the term village probably wouldn’t be an accurate description, Maugherow perhaps could best be described, as a rather expansive rural community.
The project was set up in order to explore the potential of using the arts in a school environment to address the isolation and exclusion, experienced by many older people in rural areas. It was considered essential that this project would be structured in a holistic way, that would not only benefit the older people involved, but also the school, its students and the wider community.
I joined the project in 2001. At that time I was just out of Art College and this was one of the very first community art projects that I was involved with. There is nothing like jumping in at the deep end! Ann O Connor was the project Co-ordinator at the time and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from a range of other facilitators.
From the beginning of my involvement it was clear that a number of key principles and approaches underpinned the successes of the programme. These values were important for both young and old participants and included an emphasis on participation, social inclusion and equity of access, prioritising the individual as a resource, facilitating high quality arts experiences, supporting individual creativity and self –expression (regardless of age or ability) and working in small numbers to provide where appropriate one –to –one support .
In 2004 I took up the role as a freelance co-ordinator on the project and although the programme came to an end in 2007, I have continued to work with the older group. With my help they have now set themselves up as the Maugherow Active Age Group and meet regularly for creative workshops, (and a cup of tea, some cake and a catch up! Which is – as anyone who works with older groups knows, a very important part of the session!) .
Sadly some of the older project members have passed away but a core group from the original project, some of which are into their 90’s participate in the fortnightly workshops and get involved in all sorts of programmes from counterparty dance to knitting projects that involved covers Sligo, sculptures and trees etc. in large scale knitted textiles pieces. The great thing is that there are very few art forms and Off The Wall art projects that the group have not been involved in!
The Sligo Arts Office, now known as the Sligo Arts Service has continued to build on the learning from the Maugherow project. An intergenerational model that works effectively and offers significant health benefits to both young and old participants was adapted to create a new programme of intergenerational projects throughout Sligo Town and County.
Following on from the Maugherow project, the Sligo Arts Service has run 8 Intergenerational Arts Projects. The timeframe for each project is 2 years. The current projects in Ballymote, link secondary students with older people that attend Day Care Centres and Nursing Homes and we will hear about these in our next blog.
We’re very proud of the creative work that’s brought the different generations together here in Sligo, the different it has made in the lives of some people is quite significant. As some of our participants have commented;
Some people say that older people are boring, but not these ones, they are the complete opposite!
It’s like a new lease of life ….it’s great to be alive and fit to take part in it all. As the younger generation says – it’s cool!