The Age Better in Sheffield Moments of Joy programme creates opportunities that empower people to connect and stay active during this unsettling (and, for many, isolating) time.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to quickly provide an ambitious and range of activity for people to get involved in, to ‘test and learn’ what people really like, and to develop partnerships which could last longer term.

We created these moments of joy as we know the importance of creativity in mental and physical wellbeing. Investing in the arts for the benefit of customers is important to us, as numerous studies show that taking part in creative activity supports confidence and resilience, helps combat isolation, and can have strong physical benefits.

From May, we’ve run weekly dance and music sessions across five South Yorkshire Housing Association extra-care homes. From April to August, over 50 sessions have taken place with around 850 attendees! At every session, we’ve also created a ‘social space’ so that residents can connect with and catch up with each other. Family members often join in, too.

Dance sessions are delivered by an expert Dance to Health practitioner. They are mainly outdoors, so that people can take part from their windows if they’d like to. The sessions comprise of 3 or 4 ‘pop-up’ bursts of activity, that are around 20 minutes each – and people can take part in as many pop-ups as they like! Activity can be standing or seated, and is suitable for all abilities. We’ve also created socially-distanced corridor pop-ups when they weather has been bad.

We hope to develop these sessions to create dance with residents, with discussions with residents beginning in September.

“It was a pleasure to listen to – it took over my mind.”

a happy resident

At our mini gigs, professional musicians come to play in the gardens. We’d like to develop this into a more participatory project, and trialing indoor gigs and family shows is currently in discussion.

“We met some amazing, wonderful, welcoming people. They all said they loved it. And it gave us three such a wonderful time, as we have missed playing for months. As musicians, we are used to meeting other people, playing alongside others, and communicating through music. For us to ‘be’ musicians was such a treat.”

one of our talented musicians

There are lots ideas for further developments; in early October we’re running poetry workshops on the theme of joy, and we’d love to work with residents to take this idea further. Alongside this, possibilities include a dance or film project, music workshops, corridor choirs (when safe to do so), and working with more local artists and cultural organisations. Our aim is to extend our offer to provide a truly diverse programme of activities, involving a diverse range of people.

Cara McAleese, Moments of Joy Producer