Since 2012, ArtReach has worked with visual arts, dance, music and drama practitioners to develop arts projects for Singapore’s senior citizens activity centres, mental health facilities and family centres. Among its impacts:
- Creative practitioners collaborated with Singapore’s Voluntary Welfare Organisations on art projects to help develop community links and build up participants’ sense of fulfilment
- Learning resources and training encouraged social care workers to develop their own programmes
- A increased interest in using the arts for wellness, rehabilitation and intervention across different segments of Singapore’s social care sector
ArtReach is a new initiative by the National Arts Council that aims to facilitate access to arts and culture among Singapore’s wider community. Singapore has more than 400 Voluntary Welfare Organisations, working with over 400,000 Singaporeans such as children and young people at-risk, isolated senior citizens and those with disabilities. ArtReach encourages arts practitioners and Voluntary Welfare Organisations to work together, using arts activities to develop short or long term projects to benefit these communities, many of whom have little or no access to the arts. ArtReach also provides healthcare workers, social care workers and volunteers with resources they can use to initiate and lead their own arts programmes.
The role arts and culture can play in building relationships across society is an objective supported by the National Arts Council and outlined in Singapore’s Arts and Culture Strategic Review Report 2012. As part of this, Singapore’s government has set aside a budget of SGD 3 million over five years to support arts projects in vulnerable communities. These projects will be delivered through partnerships with the Voluntary Welfare Organisations and other government agencies.
By 2030, the number of Singaporeans over the age of 65 is expected to grow by 900,000, to reach one in five of the total population. Arts activities are seen as particularly beneficial forsenior citizens, as they are an inclusive, engaging and non-physically strenuous way to remain actively connected to society. The Arts and Culture Strategic Review specifically supports expanding the range of arts and culture activities available to seniors, and integrating arts activities into wellness and hobby programmes. Although ArtReach aims to work across different social groups, the first two years of implementation were largely focused on senior citizens.
The pilot “AIC Wellness Programme” applied arts based activities to improve well-being and quality of life for senior citizens in Aged Care facilities. It was developed by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) in partnership with the National Arts Council. Artists developed a curriculum and training resources – for example, guidebooks, instructional videos and project ideas – and then provided healthcare staff with the necessary training to deliver these arts initiatives within their own facilities. Since 2014, the Wellness Programme has trained 25 Aged Care organisations across Singapore.
‘Everyday Waltzes For Active Ageing’ was just such an initiative, created by professional dancers from contemporary dance group The ARTS FISSION Company. Movement activities aimed to engage with cognitive, creative and physical abilities and encourage response. Facilitated as a group activity, social interaction and communication amongst participants and staff is an additional benefit. Arts Fission worked with AIC and Aged Care facility staff to ensure movements used were suitable, effective and could be used for seniors with varying degrees of mobility. Over the course of the programme, elderly participants worked with movements inspired by daily actions such as washing the face, turning the head, peeling an orange. These were performed as part of a choreographed sequence, accompanied by music composed to enhance the overall energy and resonance of the experience.
As a whole, this creative application of movement contributed to senior citizens’ well-being. Findings from the pilot “AIC Wellness Programme” showed that participants in this creative movement curriculum looked forward to sessions and predominantly exhibited positive mood during the activity. Other findings included improved memory and increased confidence in avoiding falls. Staff also reported that they understood their elderly clients better, helping them to provide more suitable care.
ArtReach has initiated a range of programmes since 2012, involving practitioners working across a variety of art forms. Besides senior citizens’ activity centres, creative practitioners have also worked in children’s homes, family centres and mental health facilities. ArtReachhas gained traction amongst Singapore’s Voluntary Welfare Organisations, where learning resources and training sessions are now available to different segments of Singapore’s social care sector to encourage greater adoption of the arts.