Much like an elephant – residents of local care home never forget

Residents at a care home in Leigh-on-Sea have been reminiscing fondly on their lives as part of the Herd In The City art trail.

Admiral Court Care Home, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, offers residential, nursing and dementia care. They have joined the ‘mini herd’ and decorated one of the Learning Programme’s baby elephants that will be part of the parade in Southend-on-Sea this summer.

Herd In The City – created by Havens Hospices and Wild in Art – will have over 45 large elephant sculptures and 72 baby elephants dotted around the city from Friday 14 July to Monday 4 September, including Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea.

The Learning Programme, sponsored by Rickard Luckin, allows children, young people and community groups to experiment with different art forms, empowering them to take ownership and showcase their artwork to thousands of people, making art accessible to all.

The design of the care home’s elephant is a mixture of beautiful forget-me-nots, the symbol of dementia, and ‘Polaroid’ pictures depicting the resident’s memories.

Before the residents started painting the sculpture, they were asked to talk about their lives and all the different things they did. Like their childhood, school, first loves, celebrations, music and art. The process started conversations between residents, triggering memories and stories many had never shared. Many residents also made new friends after discovering the similarities in their lives.

Sarah Savidge, Lifestyles Team Leader at Admiral Court Care Home, says, “The purpose of adding memories to the baby elephant is to show that people have a long life and lots of wonderful stories to share, which don’t always get heard.

“The activity really got them thinking and was a great recall exercise. Every single resident got involved, and many are now engaging in more activities and spending time with their new friends, which is amazing to see.”

The care home’s baby elephant was named ‘Remi’ because of the reminiscing it evoked with the residents.

The memories include bike rides taken as children, waving at planes as they flew over in the second world war, Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation and her son King Charles’ Coronation this year.

One very special ‘Polaroid’ memory is of resident Joan Plant, aged 99, being appointed the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur in 2019. Joan received The National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit, both military and civil, for her involvement in liberating France during the Second World War.

When Joan was 19, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, becoming an RDF Operator (radar as it was later known). It was top secret, so she had to sign the Official Secrets Act. In 1943 she seconded to Portsmouth to plot boats and low-flying aircraft on maps for the Navy, including D-Day. Her direct involvement helped to shorten the end of the war.

Talking about her experience with the Learning Programme, Joan says, “It got me thinking about my memories again. They were all coming into my head at night, so I started to make a list. Looking at Remi is like looking back at an open book of my life.”

As well as being an unforgettable event for all involved, the art trail will raise thousands of pounds for Havens Hospices, allowing the charity to provide free specialist care for local adults, children, and families who need them.

Lauren Eagle-Allen, Learning Programme Lead at Havens Hospices, says, “It’s heart-warming to see how Remi has affected the residents at Admiral Court Care Home.

“This is a wonderful example of the community effort the Learning Programme brings to all of those who get involved.”

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Carys and Sarah standing behind Joan who is sitting down with images of his in the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force