How I am trying to bring a bit of sunshine into the lives of nursing home residents

The woman behind Sunshine TV tells LINDA KENNY why she was inspired to reach out and enhance the lives of people in nursing homes
How I am trying to bring a bit of sunshine into the lives of nursing home residents

Gina McCormack of Sunshine TV.

WHEN Gina McCormack’s parents were unwell, she took time off work to look after them and, during this time, the genesis for Sunshine TV was born.

“We lost dad two years ago and mum last May. I always wanted to return to work but last September, during the whole madness of Covid, I sat at my laptop and wondered how I could link in with people of a certain age.

“My son was doing events in nursing homes, supplying them with entertainers. I thought of doing a few home videos for the residents in the homes and the seeds for Sunshine TV were instantly sown.

“We started Sunshine TV from scratch and are well past the pilot stage by now. 

"It is a simple, feel-good, time-out TV programme aimed at nursing home residents. While they are watching the show, the activities co-ordinators get a breather so there is a double benefit for the homes.

“It is a monthly subscription service and for €49 per month, nursing homes get two half-hour programmes per week, which are sent to them every Tuesday and Thursday.

“Moreover, each show link remains live for a month so it can be used time and time again.

“We are delighted with the take up in nursing homes around the country.

“We have a cross section of viewers and the response to date has been fantastic. We already have a couple of thousand watching it from Dublin to Donegal. However, we need funding or a sponsor now to develop it further.

“We include various regular segments in our bi-weekly shows such as ‘out and about with Louis the Dog’ in which we take in nature, the birds singing, apples blossoming, primroses coming out, bees in the trees, horses in the field. This slot really appeals to those who can no longer get out for country walks. We are bringing the outside in, so to speak.”

The idea is so simple but really appealing.

She added: “We also have an arts and crafts section and encourage our viewers to be more creative by running little competitions on air for the best painting or poem, and offer our special Sunshine TV art hamper as the main prize. We showcase the prize-winner’s winning work on screen and it gets a great reaction.”

Gina added that they were very lucky to link in with transition years from 12 schools who wrote poetry, and with professional artists also who came on the show during the Arts and Craft segment to do demonstrations of jewellery-making, dancing slots, singers.

“We have worked with many singers on the show and have had a great interest from Cork entertainers too. Evin O’Riordan, from Gaelic Brew, hails from Crosshaven and has been one of our special guests. 

"We also did a show-bands special during lockdown, and Cork’s Derek Burke, from Crystal Swing, recorded a video singing The Hucklebuck specially for our Sunshine TV viewers. It went down a treat.”

Gina said they are really eager to come to Cork with the Sunshine TV Roadshow to interview people of interest who want to talk to people of a certain age.

She said: “Our ultimate aim is to work with carers’ agencies to bring Sunshine TV directly into people’s homes and to weekly day-centres. The situation is dire at the moment. There is a very fine line for those people living alone who are struggling and lonely. 

"Sunshine TV provides a lifeline for those individuals and is a huge help for their mental well-being.

“I used to bring my Mam to St James’ once a week and Mam would ask me to stay. I observed the people and the activities they did, and saw how she loved singing, dancing and poetry.

“Dad had been feeling down for a number of years before he passed away and he had stopped enjoying things. But thanks to music therapy day-sessions, he was back singing to himself. It was fabulous. Singing makes me feel good too.”

Gina works alongside Dublin-based cameraman Neil Elworthy. He has worked with ITN and RTÉ .

“I come up with the ideas and content for the show and link in with the contributors. I spend Monday to Friday planning the shows for the following week. Then Neil and I spend all day Saturday filming the two programmes. Neil edits the programmes and drops in birthday greetings, requests, videos from entertainers, etc.”

Coincidentally, Neil recently spent a few months carrying out short interviews at heritage sites like Russborough House, Hook lighthouse, and talking also with crafts people associated with traditional crafts like carpet making, roof thatching, old style caravans, etc.

Gina said: “The pieces are so interesting and relevant, and we incorporate these into the programmes also.

“There are over 100 HSE-run nursing homes in Ireland. Some of these still don’t have digital access and this is a big challenge for us. We would love a sponsor to come on board so that we can reach more people. Until such time as we do get a sponsor, we will keep searching for ways and means to get our TV programme to our audience.

“We aren’t yet in any Cork-based nursing homes but if we can make it to Donegal, we can make it to Cork.”

If you have an item you would like considered for inclusion on Sunshine TV, please contact producer/presenter Gina McCormack on 086- 3077176.

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