Responses to Worlds of Care
For almost two weeks at the end of April, staff and researchers at the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) held a photography exhibition as part of Edinburgh Science Festival.
The purpose of the exhibition was to explore the public’s thoughts on images of care and caring in later life – which images they related to, and which they would like to see more of. There was an interactive CareTree, where visitors were asked to write three words on their thoughts about care on a leaf, and add the leaf to the tree. From these comments on leaves, we grew a huge body of thought about how people perceive care in later life.
The feedback has all been recorded and a brief overview follows.
Over the days that staff were in attendance, 249 visitors were recorded as having looked around the exhibition, with around a third of that providing feedback in some form or another.
A number of people completed the online form, with others preferring to handwrite their response. A few visitors took a great deal of time to go around the exhibition and offer detailed thoughts. Others enjoyed just the opportunity to look around the variety of images.
Many comments followed similar themes, with people enjoying the images showing health and happiness, camaraderie and multigenerational bonding.
“Think all images tell the importance of caring, understanding and most important of all - ACTIONS - that helps bring… sense of life and purpose”
“They’re all good in different ways: even ‘wrinkly hands’ have a place and are quite evocative if matched with other images”
“I really enjoyed the positive representations of ageing. As a researcher involved in dementia and ageing studies, it is refreshing to see uplifting, happy images of older people engaged in activities and mutual loving relationships, rather than stereotypical one-sided care transactions.”
“I think the images fall into four categories - links between families, self care, care from outside and care between friends”
There were also a number of comments pointing out that the images selected were overwhelmingly positive, whereas to show the full breadth of care experience, it would have been helpful to include some more neutral or negative images. Several commenters suggested that people who had been around in the age of punk are now reaching later life, so it would have helped to convey alternative lifestyles.
“very important to remember there is a tremendous amount of misery around care - it should not all be positive, there is pain involved and so these pictures might be too positive.”
“there are zero images of adversity in care”
“The thought of ageing is not always attractive”
“lacking alternative images, such as a Punk Picnic - going to a gig, smoking and drinking. They are all very sanitised.”
The CareTree also provoked a great deal of interaction with 106 leaves attached to the tree. Many, but not all, offered an age to accompany their thoughts, giving differing perspectives from across different ages, from four to 87. Again, most followed a similar theme, with help, nurture, love, affection understanding, kindness, wellbeing, empathy recurring throughout.
“Respect, kindness, meeting needs”
“Understanding, patience, time (59)”
“Help the helpless”
“Happy, love, smile (8)”
“Love, life and happiness (73)”
However, with such a number of responses, there was a great deal of individuality, with, things like
“Having a positive impact on someone’s life”
“Initial thoughts – fear, but thankful we have a system”
Even quotes from Hollywood made it into the mix
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That is why they call it a present. Quote: Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda”
And some preferred to offer advice:
“Talk to strangers, you never know what you’ll learn”
“Keep on going”
The oldest received response read:
“Company, comfort, conversation (87)”
With the youngest written response (the 4 year old drew a spider):
The level of attendance to the exhibition as a whole exceeded our expectations, and we are in the process of establishing the next steps for Worlds of Care – with potential for both a physical space and something online. Keep an eye on our website and via our newsletter if you are interested in finding out more.
To conclude, a personal favourite of the CareTree responses came from a nine year old, which sums up the general theme of the responses:
“Be kind and caring (9)”.