ARU Magic Me - ARCH Project - Dare To Imagine

26 Dare To Imagine Ideas and introductions 2019-2020 The R&D phase of the ARCH prgramme consisted of a series of experimental digital storytelling interactions with residents. Jack and Natalie spent whole days at Longfield meeting residents and staff on all the units, offering a variety of activities to engage with them and start a dialogue. Residents and some staff and visitors tried and enjoyed using Virtual Reality Headsets as a means of digital travel. We also offered residents the chance to wear cutting edge ‘wearable’ Augmented Reality technology as a means of experiencing the world beyond Longfield. Initially we proposed offering something digital, a way of connecting residents with their own sense of self, as well as with family members – those who are able to visit often and those who are not. However, we encountered early on how difficult it can be to introduce new technology into a care home setting over a sustained period of time. We needed to be there to facilitate its use. Recognising that residents were at Longfield night and day, early ideas and themes we considered for the residency included a ‘Sleep Diary’ project. However, for practical reasons the home could not facilitate artists staying overnight and we moved on. We worked closely with Paula, Lifestyle Coordinator, to understand how the existing calendar year looked for the residents, including key activity days, the structure of these events and any key barriers to attendance for some residents. Photo: curious directive In this way we researched different lifestyles in the home, and mapped out aspects of the home which, as newcomers, it felt easier to navigate than others. Our approach then became about focusing on our role in the home, re-thinking how we could possibly help, as artists, in this space. We were interested in how our work at Longfield might support increasing creativity throughout Excelcare. Excelcare had an established model of having staff members identified as ‘Champions’ for different aspects of care. A Champion in one home, with particular experience or expertise, would share learning and ideas with colleagues at other homes. We therefore considered an idea called ‘Creative Champions’ – namely a member of the team who could champion alternative creative, life affirming experiences across the homes. The two-hour journey from Norwich to Maldon and back again gave both Natalie and Jack plenty of time to critically mull over the days of development in Longfield. We were about to offer to Excelcare the idea of creating a bespoke piece of software development for residents to connect with their family members, when the pandemic struck.