Sunday 25 March 2018

Artist Carol's 'Reminisence Project' helps patients at St. Oliver's relive their youths

Anne Campbell

THE community at St Oliver's Hospital in Dundalk are renewing links with their younger lives thanks to a wonderful project organised by relatives and friends of the HSE-run facility.

The reminiscence project, run by artist Carol Wallace, is for those in day and residential care at the Dublin Road hospital and since it started earlier this year, has been met with delight by clients who have had the opportunity to talk about their past.

Thanks to items like butter paddles, washboards and ceramic hot water bottles, older people had their memories stimulated and conversation has flowed. Now, the project, which is overseen by the St Olivers' Relatives Support Foundation, is seeking help from Dundalk people and want donations of items that can be held in the hand that are at least 40 years old.

Ms Wallace, who is the artist behind the hugely successful St Oliver's art group, said it is wonderful to see how small items have triggered memories and afforded clients the opportunity to speak about their upbringing in an Ireland that is almost alien to younger people now.

Recently, they held a tea dance to encourage people to remember and share their thoughts of the dance halls of their youth. She said: 'We dressed the tables with china and cake stands and we had music from the dance hall era. For those unable to dance, we had photos of the bands and dance halls from the past to help people remember and converse about their experiences.

'One lady said she used to go to the AOH hall in Cocklehill, walking from Clermont Park. She used to save up her pennies to go to the Pavillion and said the floor was 'marvellous for gliding around.

'A man commented that if the dance was held in a parochial hall, the priest used to come in and break up the dancing couples. And one man who played in a band during the era was delighted when I produced an antique saxophone and he loved the fell of one again he told me'.

John Mathews from the St Oliver's support foundation said relatives are delighted with the reaction of their loved ones to the reminiscence project. He said: 'The aim of the foundation, which started out as a relatives' forum but is now a charitable company, is to make St Oliver's a home from home for those who live and visit there.

'Holding these items brings many memories back vividly and encourages conversation and interaction and the sharing of wisdom. Our main aim is fundraising to ensure that people here get something stimulating and special such as fish and chips and a film once a month or art classes.

'We hold flag days and church gate collections and all the money we receive goes straight into providing services for the people who are at St Oliver's whether for the day or who stay there. Ahead of the refurbishment being complete next year, we are seeking corporate donations from local firms for the items we need to make the facility more like home and less institutional.

'We would be very grateful for any donations that can be made to Bank of Ireland sort code 90-33-65 account 19463443 in the name of St OIiver's Relatives Support Foundation'.

Anyone who would like to donate items to the reminiscence project, which will not be returned, can call Carol at 087 2795094 or John at 086 3719080 to discuss.

The Argus