The end of my one year Fellowship 'Arts and Older People' came to its close at the end of February 2013. However I allowed myself a personal followup in April to return to Malaysia. Fortunately I had been asked to present at a conference for psychiatrists in the Cameron Highlands which allowed me to re-visit one of the Temiar villages.
My Fellowship in some ways was turbulent, especially at the beginning, when various countries gave me invitations which then could not be sustained: dates changed,hospitals were closed. Whereas I had planned to go to Czech Republic, Germany and Russia, I ended up going to Czech Republic, Romania and Malaysia!
However it all worked out in the end, and I felt greatly enriched by the experience. I met people and shared experiences that otherwise could never have happened. I saw the worst and the best of care for older people, especially involving the art (or lack of it).
My lasting impressions in Czech Republic were of the day-to-day acceptance of the arts in everyday life, and the amazing work on dance with people with dementia by Dr Petr Veleta; in Romania the extraordinary energy of older people in their dance and singing groups, and their theatre performances. It seemed as if the arts had brought into the light such joy for people who had lived through the atrocities of the communist era.
In Malaysia I witnessed all the extremes from 100 bed wards that were completely institutionalised, to new day care centres with arts, reminiscence and delightful carers who were so keen to develop new ideas. However the true inspiration was the optimism of the older Temiar people, and their arts and crafts. More of that anon.
My full report will be on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website shortly.