There was laughter, singing and sharing of stories by Melbourne seniors who recently took part in a groundbreaking puppetry program that is bringing joy in aged care settings.
In a Victorian-first, Uniting AgeWell recently hosted internationally-celebrated theatre company, Terrapin, to perform its ‘Forever Young’ experience at five of its residential aged care facilities.
The visits followed Terrapin’s tour in Tasmania earlier in the year, which received rave reviews from hundreds of aged care residents, including those living in Uniting AgeWell residences.
The full-day puppetry performances included a show, one-on-one bedside visits and spontaneous interactions by three artists with deep experience in puppetry, aged care and therapeutic delivery.
Their aim was simple: to spark joy, engagement and trigger reminiscence.
Terrapin developed the Forever Young: Puppetry in Aged Care program over several years, working in collaboration with older audiences, aged care staff and the University of Tasmania.
Uniting AgeWell is the Founding Industry Partner of Forever Young, lending support and specialist expertise to the project. Uniting AgeWell residents even participated in workshops with Terrapin, helping develop the program.
While it is underpinned by research, you didn’t need text book knowledge to see the joy it gave to older people.
One resident, Irene Newman (pictured, above), was delighted to meet baby Sunshine in her room.
“The baby looks very life-like!” she said.
Another resident, Frank Webster, enjoyed trying to teach a puppet called Ovo how to whistle. The puppet has the beak of an owl, caterpillar legs with many hands and the feathers of an emu.
Frank reminisced about his days as a plumber, and laughed that it would be pretty useful to have as many hands as Ovo.
Terrapin program manager, Dannielle Jackson explained, “Residents interact with puppets in ways they won’t necessarily interact with other people entering a private world in which the rest of the setting disappears.”
Uniting AgeWell Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Kinnersly said the organisation was committed to improving quality of life outcomes for older people through investment in innovative lifestyle programs that bring joy and support community connection.
Terrapin will deliver an extensive Tasmanian tour of Forever Young in 2024, and plans to expand the program to Victoria in future years.