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9 December 2022 | Aged Care

Sparking joy where age is just a number

WITH heart and passion six Lutheran Services aged care residents from Tabeel Aged Care and four professional dancers demonstrated the stage is open to everyone.

Watch the full video here

 If Only I Could… took to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in October, where the performers received standing ovations for their dance virtuosity.

Director of If Only I Could… Angela Chaplin and Lutheran Services Creative Programs Advisor Clare Apelt first collaborated on the idea to illuminate the creativity of older people almost five years ago.

“At the time I was running an organisation called Ausdance,” Angela said. “I decided it would be really interesting to work with people who don’t necessarily have access to exploring their creativity and obviously one of those groups is old people.”

“They have such big lives and they are so important to our community but we rarely get to celebrate their creativity.”

Lutheran Services Creative Programs Advisor Clare Apelt approached the director, saying ‘have we got the cast for you!’

The project has now worked with more than 100 residents across Lutheran Services aged care sites.

There had been ‘test’ performances – one in 2018 and 2021 – but nothing as significant as taking to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

As the themes of the show crystallised and the limitations of working across aged care sites during the COVID pandemic became obvious, the team continued to work with residents at Tabeel Aged Care.

Angela said the performance stood as a piece of art.

“It’s an intergenerational piece of contemporary dance that showcases love and creativity,” she said.

“I originally thought the project would be about memory and then I realised we do that too often with old people, that we think they are only memories.

“It became more and more obvious it should be about their lives now, what’s important to them and also it became about the relationship between them and the professional dancers.”

The bond and understanding that grew between the professional dancers and residents were key to developing the dance pieces, she said.

They worked on improvisation and duets, finding creative expression in touch and movement.

Clare said fostering connection had been fundamental to the show.

“When we’re doing the duets (in workshops) … I say to them ‘let your body lead you’. So rather from the conscious mind – ‘what body part do I move?’ – it’s dropping into the feelings and that initiates the movement so it all becomes connected,” she said.

76-year-old Michael Bailey gave a star turn as he glided across the stage. After the show he said: “I never, ever thought I’d be on stage in my life, it was lovely. (Know that) always in your own heart you can do whatever you put your mind to.”

Michael is one of the residents at Tabeel Aged Care in Laidley (near Toowoomba, Queensland) and was keen to be involved because his favourite artist is crooner and smooth mover Neil Sedaka.

Lutheran Services CEO Nick Ryan said If Only I Could… is a celebration of our elders – of their big lives, loves and passions.

“(Creative engagement) allows agency, spark, imagination, creativity and connectedness – and that’s what’s fundamental to life.

“They found it is not ‘if only’ – they did!”

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Sparking joy where age is just a number