Once a month seniors at Mountain Lake Seniors Community and Jubilee Manor are treated to a performance by professional musicians, most of whom are West Kootenay residents. The concerts are part of the Health Arts Society’s ArtsWay initiative in the BC interior.
The Vancouver-based Health Arts Society is a registered charity that provides professional arts performances with a view to enhancing the health and well-being of elders in care. Established in 2006, the society is the largest performing arts organization in Canada dedicated exclusively to enriching the lives of those in residential care and presents performances under the banner ArtsWay. The society has established chapters in the BC interior, one of which is responsible for the East and West Kootenays.
The co-ordinator of the Kootenay chapter is Nicola Everton, for 20 years a clarinetist with the Vancouver Symphony, and now, a Kootenay resident.
Health Arts Society’s Kootenay chapter hopes to expand its program as local funding becomes available. In 2009 the society was awarded a one-time grant from the provincial government to help spread the work of the society throughout BC. This pilot project presented a six program concert series by local professional musicians in each of the 14 chosen residential care facilities in our region.
In 2010 Health Arts performed in eight of these homes, where local funding was forthcoming. Local funding was matched dollar-for-dollar by Health Arts. This policy of matching funding will continue.
Last year’s Artsway concerts in the Kootenays were made possible due to funding from the Columbia Basin Trust which was channeled through local arts councils. This year, through the generosity of the Osprey Community Foundation, Nelson’s residential care homes will each receive 10 ArtsWay concerts. In addition, CIBC/ Wood Gundy has committed to sponsoring concerts in Nelson and Cranbrook.
The ArtsWay program was created in order to respond to the special circumstances of elders in care. The losses they have experienced as a consequence of leaving their homes and often suffering bereavement weigh heavily on their health. The stimulation music brings to them increases their responsiveness and will to live. Moreover, high-caliber music-making has the capacity to breech that wall of cognitive disability that imprisons many of our seniors in care. The ArtsWay events offer those living in care a sense of participating in ordinary life and provide them with the opportunity to be respected and valued audience members.