The chapel at Evergreen Campus of Care was buzzing with excitement earlier this month as residents and volunteers prepared for the inaugural Evergreen Players performance.
It didn’t take long for the dancers on stage to get people moving in their seats, as they performed in Hawaiian-style garb, complete with leis.
While a great performance is never too hard to find on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, the four-part play, All You Need is Love, was in a class of its own.
That’s because, with an average age of 85, the Evergreen Players Club may be the most senior troupe in the community.
Organized, written and directed by Wendy Mumford, Evergreen’s co-ordinator of volunteers and creative engagement, the play starts off with a family of four driving in a car to grandma’s house.
Marilyn Perry plays Amy, Jim Beesly plays Ralph, Lyle Preston plays John and Joy Gray steals the show as teenaged Jason – complete with oversized headphones and a backwards cap.
“She does a bang-up job,” Mumford said, noting that while the residents and volunteers had fun with the “labour of love,” the play serves a dual purpose.
In the second part of the play, the projector screen to the right of the car plays a video of residents doing “Timeslips.”
The slips were developed for people who have memory loss, Mumford said.
Residents are asked to look at a picture and help create a story.
“Instead of putting pressure on them to remember, we give them a chance to create,” Mumford said. “The trouble is a lot of times people ask people with memory-loss questions.
“Questions are not a person with memory loss’ friend. Timeslips allows them to draw from within – and a lot of times they are memories – but with no pressure.”
Once the four in the car speak, their discussion segues into the video, and then residents from assisted-living and independent care come in to perform a piece in connection with the Time Slip.
The performance is amazing to watch, said recreation co-ordinator Michelle Krahn.
“The average age is about 85, and most of them have never danced, never sang a day in their lives. So here they are now. They now have an opportunity to shine,” Krahn said. “This has been a beautiful experience for them. The anxiety has set in, they’re scared, they’re wondering ‘can I still do this?’ But they are so excited.
“You don’t have this opportunity in a care facility in most places. We’re very fortunate to have this chapel.”
Krahn recalled one woman who was so happy to be able to have the opportunity to take the stage in the comfort of her own home with the people she loves.
“She said, ‘this has brought me closer to those people and I feel like we’re just a greater family because of it,’” Krahn said. “To have them brought together at this age in their lives, and feel like they have a purpose is very special.”
As part of the performance – and a way to get all 400 residents involved – a colourful fabric banner was created using panels that the residents had made about things they loved.
“I was hoping for 30 feet and we have 104 feet of banner,” Mumford said. “I still get goosebumps every time I look at them.”
The entire project has been months in the making, Mumford said, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything. The focus for staff and volunteers is person-centred care, and having the residents interacting and active. Both women hope to have another production in the works soon, and aim to encourage the idea that a care home is where seniors can live full and active lives, rather than a place to spend final days.
“Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you’re not valued,” Mumford said. “This play is empowering. It’s just been a labour of love and we take pride in what we do.”