• Dogs and the elderly

      Bartram, Angela; University of Derby (09/04/2019)
      We seek comfort from other beings, which in the absence of other humans often finds a solution in relationships with dogs. The positivity for health is particularly relevant to the elderly, who may be especially isolated and emotionally vulnerable. Although sharing one’s life with a dog gives purpose and comfort, it also brings anxieties regarding care and separation should that relationship change or cease. For the elderly, this concerns being worried for the dog’s fate should they be separated by entering housing or care facilities, or by illness or death. This seminar discusses the dilemma of leaving a ‘burden’ through the art project ‘Dogs and the Elderly,’ which analyses the importance of the interspecies relationships for physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
    • Dogs and the elderly: significant cohabitation and companionship towards the end of life

      Bartram, Angela; University of Derby (29/04/2019)
      We seek comfort from other beings and this often finds a solution in our relationships with dogs. Walter Benjamin said “no single dog is physically or temperamentally like another,” which in part attests to our interspecies domestic closeness based on reliance and need. Nowhere is this seen more than in their companionship with the elderly. The positivity for health of a life with dogs is relevant to the elderly, those may feel isolated and vulnerable without another with whom to share life. Here, dogs become a vital companion, alleviating depression and isolation and giving a sense of usefulness. Although sharing one’s life with a dog gives purpose and comfort, it also brings anxieties regarding care and separation should that relationship change or cease. For the elderly, this concerns being worried of their dog’s fate should they enter managed housing or care facilities, or if separated by illness or death. The ‘burden’ they would leave sees the elderly intentionally deny homing another dog should theirs die. This denial renders the dog a last memorial to the significance of the companionship that informed life. This presentation discusses my art project ‘Dogs and the Elderly’ that focuses on the significance and benefit of interspecies companionship towards the end of life. This project with the Alzheimer’s Society demonstrates how interspecies cohabitation is valuable for emotional health and wellbeing. Participants offer heart-warming and heart- breaking accounts of a lonelier and dog-free life when their current companion becomes their last. The fear of not being able to ensure safe continuing care produces a self-imposed loneliness, one where it seems better to know they will not commit a dog to an unknown future than to benefit from their friendship now. The dog becomes the living remains of a relationship that can no longer be accommodated.
    • Dogs and the elderly: the significance of end of life interspecies companionship.

      Bartram, Angela; University of Derby (05/11/2018)
      We seek comfort from other beings, which in the absence of opportunities to communicate with other humans often finds a solution in relationships with the dogs. Walter Benjamin said “…no single dog is physically or temperamentally like another,” and they bring this individuality to the co-dependence that is living with humans, an interspecies domesticity based on mutual physical and emotional need. The positivity for health of a life with dogs is particularly relevant to the elderly, those who may feel isolated and emotionally vulnerable due to illness, infirmity or being housebound. Their canine companion becomes the energy for life alleviating depression and isolation, creating instead a sense of usefulness to another. Although sharing one’s life with a dog gives purpose and comfort, it also brings anxieties regarding care and separation should that relationship change or cease. For the elderly, this specifically concerns being mindful and worried of the dog’s fate should they enter managed housing or care facilities, or if separated by illness or death. The ‘burden’ they would leave in this situation often sees the elderly intentionally deny homing another dog should theirs die, thus inflicting a self-imposed loneliness. This decision increases sadness and isolation, often with elevated levels of depression becoming a consequence. This illustrated presentation discusses this dilemma through the lens of the social art project ‘Dogs and the Elderly,’ which analyses the significance and benefit of companion relationships towards the end of life. Working with participants from the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Café’s in Nottingham, the project analyses the importance of the interspecies relationships for physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Participants, who are interviewed and photographed in their homes with their dogs, discuss their current and past interspecies companions, offering equally heart-warming and heart-breaking accounts as discussions move to a lonelier and dog-free life when their current companion becomes their last. The fear of burden and lack of being able to ensure safe care of a beloved dog once they cannot prescribes a self-imposed loneliness, one where it seems better to know they will not commit a dog to an unknown future than to benefit from their friendship now. The presentation was delivered as part of ARC Artistic Research Forum, De Nieuwe Regentes, The Hague, 5th November 2018.