Hello Koalas, a colourful creative ageing study

Artist Kerry Smith-Taughkin with the Creative Ageing design, sponsored by The Whiddon Group.
Artist Kerry Smith-Taughkin with the Creative Ageing design, sponsored by The Whiddon Group.

THE Whiddon Group’s sponsorship of a koala sculpture follows on from the organisation’s commitment to a creative ageing and arts approach for older people living in residential aged care across their 19 aged care facilities in NSW, including facilities in Laurieton and Wingham.

“Our involvement in the Hello Koalas Sculpture Project provides a wonderful opportunity for residents to connect to the wider community and take part in a well recognised and iconic project,” said Whiddon’s Director Care Services, Kelly Sullivan.

“For older people, living in a dementia friendly community is about feeling familiar and safe in new environments. The Hello Koalas Sculpture Project will help create a familiar environment within the local community in a way that is dignified and respectful. Being able to go on an outing and positively engage with the koala sculptures on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, within our community, is exciting and will help overcome the hesitation that some of our residents may have when visiting unfamiliar places. If a person with dementia is connected with our koala sculpture in North Haven, this connection will extend to the other Hello Koalas sculptures across the wider Port Macquarie area,” said Mrs Sullivan.

The Hello Koalas Sculpture Project was developed by Arts and Health Australia, a national organisation, based in Ellenborough. Port Macquarie Hastings Council is the principal sponsor and there are over 70 sponsors and event partners contributing to this high profile community project.

Arts and Health Australia’s Executive Director, Margret Meagher, explains: “Our organisation is dedicated to advocating the use of the arts and creativity to enhance health and wellbeing. Public art is one of the most effective ways to engage members of a community, from childhood to older age and from diverse backgrounds, and encourage interaction, participation and contribution within a community”.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, Port Macquarie Hastings ranks second out of 93 electorates in NSW with the highest prevalence of dementia. An expected increase of 350% in the number of people living with dementia is predicted. 

Margret Meagher is pleased that the Camden Haven will be represented on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. 

“There will be 50 one metre high fibreglass koala sculptures installed in the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail across the Port Macquarie Hastings region, from the hinterland to the coast, each featuring a unique artistic design. 

“With the Whiddon Group’s sponsorship, we will now have a Camden Haven koala sculpture on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail and two koala designs specifically promoting healthy ageing through the arts in the region.

“Our local Member of Parliament Leslie Williams is committed to making our region more accessible for people with dementia and their carers, which led to the idea of creating a design to help demystify the perceptions that people have around dementia.

“Arts and Health Australia approached Kerry Smith-Taughkin, an artist who works with school groups to help young people to understand what dementia means and the importance of treasuring older family members who live with dementia. It’s about recognising a person’s value and continuing to love them and engage with them, in spite of cognitive decline.

“Kerry’s design “Dementia - Looking for the Key”, sponsored by the NSW Government, is so beautiful and poignant that we asked her to create another design around creative and active ageing which artistically tells a story about ways to stay fit and well as people age and to maintain a high quality of life, even when living with debilitating health conditions. 

“The Whiddon Group, which has an established arts and ageing program for its residents in each of their aged care facilities, quickly agreed to support this sculpture for the Camden Haven,” Margret said. 

“We see the Hello Koalas Sculpture Project as a great way of bringing the community together and, in particular, acknowledging the fantastic contribution that older people make to our society.”


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