2009-10 Transitions in Later Life: a week-long Learner Workshop
This Grundtvig-funded workshop explored the experience of later life changes in the work/life balance through reminiscence and dramatic improvisation. 20 delegates from 12 EU countries came to London for a week-long residential course, led by Pam Schweitzer, supported by Ingrid Berzau and Dieter Scholz from Germany, Errollyn Bruce and Sarah Clevely from the UK.
The workshop used creative reminiscence and life review exercises to reflect on our life journeys to date, and used theatre-based exercises to envision the futures participants hoped for. Image:The Transitions workshop.
Working in small groups and as a whole group we tested these creative approaches and considered their effectiveness in enabling us to manage change at a personal, psychological and social level.
The learning explored in this workshop is still being developed and will result in an online manual conveying the essentials of the course so that it can be tried in other countries and different contexts.
Transitions photo gallery - click for larger images
Responses by participants from different EU countries:
"It’s wonderful. We’ve started by getting the feel of our past and later we are going to try and think about the future and I think we will be having some new ideas about it. The activities are so creative, I really like them – and they work really well. I will be taking some ideas from them to use in my own work."
"When I applied for this course, I thought it was more like a game, some leisure time, visiting London, meeting others from all over Europe. When I got here I found it was a chance for me to reflect on my own life. When I meet people with similar difficulties in their lives to my own, I find that mine feel less difficult. I also liked the really good organization and preparation that has been done, and the very strict structure. It keeps the group together, doing what’s been planned – which is very important."
"I really enjoyed being involved in playing a part in other people’s stories as well as having people involved in my own – being director, and using people in your story. It had something playful, but at the same time was quite a serious matter – a very good combination. Very powerful, very emotional – you really feel the stories. I like the change of methods – we changed partners 2 or 3 times by talking about different experiences. We got know other people in the group very quickly."
European Reminiscence Network in India
In 2010, the ERN director, Pam Schweitzer, undertook the first reminiscence training visit to India. Working in association with the Alzheimers Society of India (ARDSI) Pam gave training sessions, workshops, lectures and advice sessions in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The visit was to support local initiatives and advise on incorporating reminiscence into group activities in day centres and one-to-one work in the home environment. Of particular interest to participating groups was the idea of linking with the ERN projects, so some will work in parallel with our RTRT project and some will help families to develop memory boxes or life story books. When we develop our RTRT website (which will be linked to this site) we hope to feature some of the work emerging from the Indian groups.
ERN in India photo gallery - click for larger images
Making Memories Matter, running from 2004 to the present day, has involved artists from seven countries working with individual older people to create ‘Life Portraits’ or ‘Memory Boxes’ around their life experience. This project is supported by the European Commission, the Bosch Foundation, the Bridge House Trust and many smaller foundations in the participating countries.
Over one hundred boxes have been created, recycling ammunition cases (supplied by the army in each country) and giving them a peaceful and creative use. Each box has an accompanying text explaining the contents, putting the display in the wider context of the older participant’s life and giving the artist’s perspective. [Image right: Eileen and her memory box]
The resulting exhibition, which has been shown in galleries and museums in all seven partner countries, is remarkable as an exploration of Europe’s cultural heritage and it has been visited by thousands of people of all ages. It continues to tour across Europe and was featured in the Documenta international art exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 2007.
Click here for a record of the Memory Boxes Tour for the Making Memories Matter project of the European Reminiscence Network 2005-7
[PDF file 95k - requires Adobe Acrobat Reader - download free copy]
A hard-back book of the project entitled 'Making Memories Matter' has been published by euregio-Verlag, Kassel, in a bilingual English/German edition in autumn 2005. Written by Pam Schweitzer and Angelika Trilling, it presents these European Memory Boxes in full colour plates, together with their accompanying texts and a commentary on the working process. Contact email@example.com for details. [Image right: 'Making Memories Matter' bi-lingual publication]
Sites and Signs of Remembrance
Sites and Signs of Remembrance is a two-year project of the European Reminiscence Network with partners in Berlin, Dresden and Poznan (Poland). This is a life-long learning project supported by the European Union Socrates programme. It involved mapping and documenting older people’s responses to the changes they have seen, made and lived through in their different communities. Partners learnt through running their own inter-generational projects at a local level and through a series of international exchanges and visits. In year two of the project an on-line version was produced, bringing together the international project’s findings: www.sisie.eu.
Pam co-ordinated the project in the UK, in partnership with the Humanities Department of the University of Greenwich, the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality and a number of local ethnic minority community groups. [Image: Partners from Dresden. Berlin, Poznan and London at the Sites and Signs of Remembrance project's Berlin meeting January 2007]
In addition to the work undertaken on behalf of the Network, Pam frequently lectures and runs workshops overseas, especially in the fields of Reminiscence Theatre, intercultural work and dementia care.