Seniors at Fairmount Home were already preparing to use technology to stay engaged and active before the pandemic hit thanks to a pilot project launched by H’art Centre’s outreach program in December 2018 and implemented in 2019.
“Little did we know that our Go Wireless Project would be such a timely lifeline,” said Katherine Porter, Executive Director of H’art Centre. “We had this idea that technology could bring meaningful and engaging arts and culture programming to residents in Long-Term Care Homes during periods of ‘down-time’. We had weekends or visitor restrictions in mind. We believed it could add to the quality of life of residents and also provide positive support for recreation and leisure staff, and volunteers. What no one knew then was COVID-19 was right around the corner.”
Through the Go Wireless pilot project, five Smart TV monitors, multiple headsets, and a creative resource guide were made available to Fairmount Home’s recreation staff and artists in the H’art Accessible Arts Program. The investment was made possible through a collaboration between H’art, Empire Life, and the Rotary Club of Kingston.
Since 2015, H’art Centre has been initiating ways to involve seniors with disabilities in the arts. Most notably, the H’art Accessible Arts Program (HAAP) has been used by a variety of long-term care homes in Kingston to engage professional artists who can keep their residents active and engaged through music, dance, storytelling, painting, and more. More than 300 seniors have been impacted by the effort. Go Wireless was an enhancement or enrichment of its outreach program.
“The wireless project has been so helpful during the pandemic, we use the TVs for so many different virtual programs,” said Chelsea Cawker, Assistant Director of Care- Resident Services at Fairmount Home. “We have used them to participate in the ‘rise, shine and sing’ program, for virtual church services, and to stream events going on in the home where we are limited to the number of participants, such as our Remembrance Day service or butterfly release so that all Residents get a chance to enjoy”. Chelsea also noted she is working to introduce a new program called Drum Fit which will use the Smart TVs for musical exercise. “
Although the HAAP outreach program is on hiatus due to the pandemic, H’art has two occupational therapy students from Queen’s University evaluating the program and working on recommendations about its future direction.
“By providing opportunities for seniors with disabilities to stay connected to the creative world and their communities, we can create a spark that ignites meaning and happiness,” said Porter.