We would like to thank Cassia Kaki for taking time out for this interview.
Interview with Cassia Kaki
As COVID-19 remains a threat to the health of seniors in Singapore, they are still very much encouraged to stay at home. Fortunately, there are many activities available to help keep them occupied and connected with loved ones. In an interview below, a local organisation provides insights into the importance of art amongst seniors, as well as ways that we can encourage them to take part in various arts related activities.
Could you give us a brief introduction about Cassia Kaki and what you do?
A multi-disciplinary collective, Cassia Kaki 2.0 comprises a team of four independent artists in collaboration with the Cassia Resettlement Team, a voluntary group that serves the residents of Block 52 Cassia Crescent. The artists first came together through the Cassia Kaki Pilot Project, a Greenhouse Lab action-learning programme presented by ArtsWok Collaborative. In its second iteration, Cassia Kaki 2.0 builds upon the Cassia Kaki and Cultural Mapping project that took place from 2018 to 2019.
Cassia Kaki 2.0 aims to provide empowerment, encourage mutual support, and build cohesiveness in the Cassia Crescent community through arts based programmes. Although COVID-19 had resulted in the postponement of the original devising workshops and showcase, the team has since adapted to the situation, and will continue to innovate in the ways we reach out to the seniors who are a part of the vulnerable population.
Tell us about your experience holding art workshops for seniors. What are some things you take note of when designing activities for them?
On our COVID-19 response:
When we provided our seniors with the first “Happy Hour @ Home” arts kit as part of the circuit breaker response, there were a range of responses. Some seniors were proactive and even requested for more activities, some seniors required more guidance and encouragement, and we also experienced some seniors who were more resistant to learning new skills without the physical presence of a facilitator. Based on the feedback received during our regular check-ins with them, we improved on each subsequent art kit to ensure that the activities would be able to occupy, motivate and challenge them. We learnt from the process that it was important to keep in mind that each individual has different skills, preferences, and challenges and as facilitators, we should be prepared to provide support for each individual differently.
On the Cassia Kaki Pilot Project:
From our previous face to face workshops, we noticed that many seniors often spoke about time. For instance, a participant mentioned that she felt that time was passing slowly and she wanted Saturdays to come more quickly (our workshops were held on Saturdays). Another participant also shared her thoughts on mortality and time as she saw her neighbours passing on gradually. Similar feedback had been reported with CRT volunteers who conduct regular home visits. Residents often remark on constancy or changes in their physical conditions - “same old,” or hinting that they may not be around for much longer - reflecting that their understanding of time could be deeply embodied.
Taking in these observations, we factored in the following into the activities design:
a) Activities should encourage interaction between young people and seniors
b) Activities should be new and fresh to enable seniors to break their normal routine of “same-old same-old”.
c) Activities should be meaningful and worthwhile for them to spend their time
d) Activities should explore their achievements and accomplishments and life goals
In what ways do these workshops benefit seniors?
Our workshops focused on providing seniors with a safe space to share their stories as well as take ownership of their creations, which could come in a form of a tangible piece of craft work, or a song or story that they share). Through sharing of stories and celebrating achievements, they develop the confidence, skills and ability to engage well with each other.
Part of our workshop design included activities to enable mutual support. Seniors could surface their needs and strengths, and they were then encouraged to help one another, as well as be open to receiving help. By creating opportunities for social interaction, space for teamwork to take place and for the residents in the neighbourhood to work together, the bonds between participants are strengthened, and they also recognise that everyone has a part to play in the community.
With simple and accessible materials, what are some hands-on activities we can do with our elderly family members at home?
Some of the most well received activities in our Happy Hour @ Home kits were drawing and coloring, body stretches and exercises, as well as puzzles or brain teasers. If your elderly family member enjoys these activities, the Happy Hour @ Home kits can be downloaded from our website. Alternatively, if they have hobbies or new skills that they would like to learn, such as cooking or photography, you could encourage them to do it regularly. Documenting the product, or doing the activity together, is a good form of encouragement and motivation – for example, you could take photos of their cooking (and consolidate them into a collage), or spend quality time preparing a meal together.
Why is it important for seniors to engage in art?
Art transcends time, space, and language, and is able to empower the seniors (who might be illiterate) to express themselves freely through various art forms. By learning and practising an art form, seniors can gain self-confidence and competence both in the process of creating and in the completed product. Community arts in particular also looks at the interactivity among the stakeholders in the community, such as the seniors, other residents in the area, artists working in that community, volunteer organisations working in the space, the resident committee (RC) and the town council etc. With increased communication through the arts, the seniors are better able to know the support they can tap on in the community, as well as to develop a stronger sense of belonging with the space and the other seniors living there.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
This year has not been easy for us in terms of adapting the programme design due to the pandemic. As artists, we are constantly finding new and creative ways to work around restrictions, ambiguity and volatility in various forms including space, time, resources and finance. We would love to have your support, in whatever form it may take, as we continue to engage the seniors with our arts workshops and creation process. Do follow us on our Facebook page, Cassia Kaki 2.0, or visit us at cassiakaki.wordpress.com to find out more.
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