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Aged care initiative picks up arts in health prize

Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood (left) with Elizabeth Winston and Bridget O’Shannassy from Villa Maria Catholic Homes

A Melbourne-based aged care and disability service provider has won an award for its use of the arts to enhance the wellbeing of its residents over large hospital, health and aged services from around Australia.

The Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) pastoral care team was the winner of Catholic Health Australia’s 2017 Arts in Health award for its Arts in Action program involving residents and the broader VMCH community.

The HESTA-funded award announced at the recent CHA Conference in Hobart acknowledges initiatives that enhance the experience of patients or aged care residents through the use of the arts.

It targets initiatives that promote health, ageing well and preventative health, across all art forms and is delivered in a wide range of care settings.

VMCH’s Arts in Action project impressed the judges, who noted it “demonstrated excellent resident outcomes, engaged with the community as items created were gifted at Christmas to those less fortunate and strongly supported the mission and values of VMCH.”

As well as submitting a formal entry and a poster at the conference, the five finalists underwent a shark-tank style judging process, giving a short presentation then being questioned by the judges.

Liz Winston, VMCH’s pastoral care worker, took Australian Ageing Agenda through the winning poster presentation and program.

“It started in early 2016 when aged care resident Norma told me of her deep and unfulfilled need to give back to others,” Ms Winston told AAA.

“I discovered that she wasn’t alone and we put together a team of 20 aged care residents in two residences to create Arts in Action using their artistic skills to make crafts for people less fortunate than themselves.

“In the last three months of 2016 they created 800 craft items that were used in 172 Christmas hampers put together by VMCH staff and distributed to those living in VMCH affordable housing units and those accessing disability and community services programs.

VMCH resident Judy used to exhibit her own paintings and now uses her skills to paint Christmas decorations for others

The program is projected to grow in 2017 to 2,500 items for 500 hampers created by participating residents in 11 facilities.

“Every resident who wishes to help can take part, by sewing, painting, crafting or wrapping items, whatever their disability or frailty,” Ms Winston said.

The program has also helped resident health and wellbeing from providing a sense of purpose and achievement to helping joint mobility and dexterity in the hands, she said.

“The brain gets a good work out, and for some it induces the same good feelings as from meditation. The residents bond over working together, and for some, the group assists in the transition to [aged] care.”

The pastoral care team will use its $5,000 prize money to purchase craft supplies for the upcoming Christmas hamper season and help rollout the program across all VMCH aged care facilities.

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