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Zen Activities at CentroCaixa

Madrid, 15 April 2002

CentroCaixa, the ”la Caixa” Foundation new centre for the elderly in Madrid, has scheduled various activities to introduce Japanese culture to the elderly. The “Zen Workshops” –Ikebana (flower arranging), Origami (paper-folding) and Shodo (calligraphy)– aim to give the elderly some understanding of a different conception of life, nature and time, as represented by Japanese culture. The objective of the workshops is to promote coordination, psychomotor skills and memory in a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.

These workshops are carried out around the Zen Garden for meditation which presides over the first floor of CentroCaixa. This space, created by Rikako Yano, Japan’s Art and Culture Director, is a manifestation of satori (achieving absolute truth at each moment of life). Each of the garden’s features –rocks, stones and sand– symbolises an image of the universe.

Taking branches, leaves and flowers from their natural setting and using them to create a certain composition is the objective of the Ikebana (flower arranging) workshop. What is sought in the end result is not only a beautiful composition but also one which reflects its author and her/his particular view of the world. Ikebana is a practice which consists in floral decoration of living rooms in houses, and is based on harmony and natural equilibrium of plants, trees, lakes, mountains and any other feature of nature.

Origami (traditional Japanese paper-folding) shows how, with a little skill, the elderly can make coloured pieces of paper folded in thousands of different shapes into birds, dogs or even gorillas.

Another of the workshops is Shodo, which initiates elderly persons in Japanese calligraphy, in which, as in any other skill, copying and repeating outlines can lead to mastery of a few characters. Rather than a quest for functionality, the objective is to try to reproduce the feelings evoked by the meaning of this calligraphy.

The agreement between the Autonomous Community of Madrid and ”la Caixa” Foundation

The regional Social Services Department and ”la Caixa” Foundation have since 1997 been organising a programme for the elderly in this autonomous community. This year, the two institutions signed an agreement providing for activities at 36 centres for the elderly in Madrid.

Over these five years of the agreement, ”la Caixa” Foundation has set up 27 computing rooms and four media libraries, with a further two currently being installed. Since that time more than 17,000 students have undertaken activities in these rooms. With these initiatives ”la Caixa” Foundation aims to promote the integration of the elderly in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, in order to foster their full participation in a society of all ages.


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