Harmonies of History: Young and old join together for poignant Limerick songbook

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

Elizabeth Blake and Harry Owens of St Paul's Nursing Home with Laurel Hill Coláiste students Sinead Cronin, Ellie Williamson, Sophie Kennedy, Hanna Hayes and Kate O'Reilly Picture: Adrian Butler

Elizabeth Blake and Harry Owens of St Paul's Nursing Home with Laurel Hill Coláiste students Sinead Cronin, Ellie Williamson, Sophie Kennedy, Hanna Hayes and Kate O'Reilly Picture: Adrian Butler

MARGARET had a big family of hard workers; Michael loved to travel, he had a great interest in ships and would visit shrines all around the world; Music and singing were Mary’s great love, she sang in the kitchen as she worked, at parties and gatherings.

These are just three of the poignant memories shared with young students as part of a community outreach project that has created an inspiring record of the lives of residents at St Paul’s Nursing Home.

Since last September, students from Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ have been collaborating on a songbook with the nursing home in Dooradoyle, with residents sharing their fond memories with their visitors.

The project has been a combination of the students’ “enthusiasm of youth with the wisdom and experience of residents”.

That’s according to St Paul’s activities coordinator Mary Moynihan. 

“The students have undertaken this project with eagerness, keenness and an open heart,” Ms Moynihan said.

“As a reminiscence experience, it has offered the residents the opportunity to voice memories, and to share them in small groups and one to one with students.

“This is an inspiring and significant project for our residents as it has impacted very positively on their mental health,” she added.

“For older people in nursing homes, social isolation and exclusion from society is common.

“A key feature of this project is its emphasis on engagement, participation and empowerment of our residents to support social inclusion.” 

The project has had noticeable positive effects for those taking part, Ms Moynihan explained.

“The benefits can be seen with our dementia residents and non dementia that the reminiscence part of the project has impacted positively on their cognitive ability to talk about their youth and therefore has provided these residents with the opportunity for emotional and meaningful social engagement,” she said.

“Several laughed and smiled as they reminisced and continue to talk regularly about the launch of the song book.

“It has allowed the residents to tap into their wisdom and recognize that they have something to pass down to the next generation, and thus that their life has meaning and purpose.

“This project has also given the students a different way  to learn about interviewing and communicating with older adults,” the St Paul’s activities coordinator said.

Funding from Healthy Ireland, accessed through Limerick City and County Council, has helped the project publish their collection; ‘Harmonies of History’ chronicles the lives of residents as told to the students, as well as their favourite songs. 

“The emphasis on engagement and partici- pation between students and residents has shown that investing in the books publication through funding from Healthy Limerick is giving empowerment and a vision for the future in a quality participatory arts project,” Ms Moynihan said.  

A special thank you also goes to Healthy Limerick coordinator Mo Foley-Walsh, as well as to Mary Riordan and Aedín Ní Bhriain of Laurel Hill Coláiste, Ms Moynihan added. 

Harmonies of History, a collection of songs and stories told to the students of Laurel Hill Coláiste to the residents of St Paul’s Nursing Home will launch on February 28.

The community outreach project has been supported by the Healthy Ireland Fund, which is supported by the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Rural and Community Development.