Over the past month or so, I have been developing a puppetry program aimed at the aged care sector. Working with lifestyle co-ordinator, Jessie Bainbridge and the residents at Trinity Manor, I have had the opportunity to trial my program and receive valuable feedback. The response has been fantastic.
I have run two different kinds of sessions; one, a talk and demonstration featuring my lovely marionette Astrid, the other a puppet making workshop with a special guest appearance by Henri Orangutan. Both sessions were received really well, but surprisingly the latter was the more engaging. I was a little apprehensive going in to the puppet making session. It is hard to know what level to aim for. So many different people with varying degrees of physical and mental impairment. I decided to go with one of my tried and true workshops "Pop-Up Puppets". My main concern was that it may come across as too childish for this group of wise elders.
They absolutely loved it. It was just the right level of difficulty and with a small group I was able to walk around and help anyone who needed my assistance. As we worked, I discussed different aspects of puppetry and making. They were all very engaged, asking questions and working hard at getting their puppets finished. It was such a rewarding experience for me. Everyone was so grateful for my time and the smiles on their faces were the best review I could ask for. One lady commented "I feel like a kid at Christmas". What more could I hope to achieve? This put to rest my concerns; clearly childish was not a bad quality in this situation.
After they had finished their pop up puppets, Henri Orangutan came out for a visit. They adored him. He wandered around interacting with everyone. They commented on how alive he seemed and on the "magic" of it all. Earlier in the session they had asked me Why? Why do I do what I do. I told them it was for the "magic", and here it was. They asked a lot of questions about how he was made and overall were just enchanted by the little monkey. A couple of hours and an amazing shared experience, I look forward to doing more of these kinds of sessions.
The session with Astrid ran a little differently. First a presentation with a slide show of photo's, discussing how Astrid was made, the carving process etc. This went for around 25 minutes which we later decided was too long. Though a few were very interested, many others drifted off. Again, it is hard when their is such a variety of abilities in the room. After the talk however, Astrid came out to say hello and with her the "magic" arrived. Every face in the room lit up. They immediately spoke about her and to her as though she was a real person. Oh how I love puppetry!
The really amazing thing that Jessie told me later was that many remembered Astrid days later. Several of the people suffering from Alzheimer's will usually forget things almost immediately, however days later they were still talking about the beautiful string puppet. And even one week on, when I returned for my next session, many remembered me and mentioned Astrid, asking if they would see her again. Jessie was amazed by the improvement in their memory. I was chuffed to have made such an impact, and to know that my puppets are so memorable.
In all, the trials have gone amazingly well, and I feel confident to begin marketing myself to this sector. I thoroughly enjoyed my sessions with the people at Trinity and felt genuinely appreciated for my skill and my time. An absolutely incredible group, getting to know them was a pleasure. I hope to do much more of this work in future.
If you are interested in booking me for this kind of work, please get in touch via the Contact page.