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Developing innovative arts experiences for seniors

Speech by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, at Arts in Eldercare Seminar 2018

06 September 2018

Distinguished speakers and guests, friends from the arts community;

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good morning, it is my pleasure to join you at the Arts in Eldercare Seminar 2018. I would like to extend a warm welcome to our international speakers and participants – thank you for travelling to Singapore to join us for this important occasion.

2. Today marks the fifth edition of the Arts in Eldercare Seminar.   It has become a platform for sharing best practices in bringing the arts to seniors. Last year, findings from “The Arts for Ageing Well Study” funded by the National Arts Council (NAC) were shared and discussed at the fourth Seminar.  These showed that seniors who engaged in the arts experienced a greater sense of holistic well-being than those who did not. Participation in the arts can empower seniors to live more active and fulfilling lives, allowing them to have confidence in themselves as they build stronger relationships with others, and expand their social networks. Such insights are increasingly important not just for a rapidly-ageing Singapore, but also for all situations where it is important to encourage a better quality of life among the elderly.

New ways to engage seniors through technology

3. How can we make the arts attractive and engaging to our seniors? One way is to leverage on the power of technology and digital approaches. These can provide more possibilities for seniors to enjoy the arts, help seniors express themselves creatively, and open up more opportunities for artists to work with seniors through new media.

4. I am glad that technology is a highlight of this year’s Seminar.I hope that the discussions over the next 2 days will help us all better understand the importance of utilising technology, and provide ideas on how we can be more effective in our efforts to do so.

5. Arts practitioners in Singapore have already initiated arts projects with seniors using technology. The iPads and virtual reality displays outside this hall feature two new local arts projects, which I encourage you to experience for yourselves as examples of how we can push ourselves to think outside the box, to create something that connects with seniors.

6. The first project, Magic Markers by artists Lee Sze Chin, Woon Tien Wei and Nigel Chen, gave seniors augmented and virtual reality tools to create images of memories from their childhood. Through a series of workshops, participating seniors learnt the basics of sketching, took 360-degree photographs and videos, and experimented with different ways to enhance their sketches using digital assets before sharing these images with their peers. This project provided seniors with opportunities to revisit their childhoods, tell their stories and make new connections with others.

7. The second project is Happy Kopi – or Happy Coffee – by artist Moses Sia. It draws on the familiar kopitiam or coffee shop motif, weaving stories and artworks from residents from ECON Medicare Centre and Nursing Home at Upper East Coast into an interactive multimedia piece. The project was developed as part of a partnership between NAC and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). Last year, the first arts residency was conducted in nine nursing homes across Singapore.It paired 10 artists working alongside 100 nursing home residents, who imagined different scenarios in kopitiams, and created characters, items and stories that reflected their personal experiences. The participants also crafted puppets, converted them into a digital format, and recorded their own voices to bring the puppets to life.

8. Beyond these art creations, the residency also led to the development of the Sparks! Art for Wellness Toolkit.This is a compilation of arts activities piloted at the various nursing homes last year.The new toolkit will enable volunteers as well as social service and healthcare practitioners to implement arts activities in their various care settings independently. I am pleased to announce that the toolkit will be publicly available from today on AIC’s website.With such resources, more of our seniors can have access to the positive effects of engagement with the arts.

Providing more opportunities for seniors to age well through the arts

9. Our government agencies and arts institutions will continue to work with stakeholders to develop more creative approaches to engage our seniors through the arts. For example, National Gallery Singapore works with partners like Deutsche Bank to organise docent-led tours and special programmes for seniors in languages familiar to them. This helps them better understand the exhibitions in the Gallery. In addition, NAC will be looking into developing innovative arts experiences for seniors in their residential and community care settings, so that they can feel, sense, touch, and most importantly, enjoy the arts in comfortable and familiar surroundings.NAC will also help build the capacities of social and healthcare practitioners to engage seniors through the arts.These initiatives are part of MCCY’s ongoing efforts to enhance the availability and accessibility of the arts to all Singaporeans, and to harness the transformative power of the arts to help us build a more caring, cohesive, and confident Singapore.

10. I wish you all a successful seminar and fruitful discussions ahead. Thank you.

Last Updated: 11 September 2018

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