National Endowment for the Arts blog about Older Adults During the Time of Covid-19

Pictured: Arts for the Aging partnering with the Smithsonian Institution on their program, See Me, for people with cognitive impairments and their caregivers; now being adapting into online modules.

Engaging in the arts is among the meaningful and productive activities that have long been associated with better health outcomes for older adults, as shown by experience and through research,” Beth Bienvenu the NEA’s Director of Accessibility writes, “including needing fewer doctor visits and less medication, as well as better mental health and more involvement in overall activities.” Read more here.


CBS features Quicksilver on The Talk


Check out this clip from CBS's The Talk. For their #FeelGoodFriday segment, choreographer and Arts for the Aging Teaching Artist, Nancy Havlik, talks about the "great power dance has to connect all of us in the world."


Washington Post feature on our antidote to isolation

Arts for the Aging's senior improv dance company Quicksilver is an antidote to isolation and loneliness. We celebrate Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas for caring about the right things, as Justice Ginsburg once described of our founder. Read here for the article.


How to reach seniors without access to technology


Arts for the Aging Teaching Artist Deborah Riley interacting over Zoom with participants from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Senior Program in the District’s Ward 8 during her Joy of Movement workshop.

Last time I wrote about our successes with providing multi-disciplinary arts workshops to seniors via Zoom. This time, I want to tell you about our efforts to connect with seniors who do not have access to reliable internet and technology. These older adults are most likely to be the most social isolated during this pandemic. They can no longer attend the adult day programs, visit senior centers, or gather in the common areas of their buildings. Many do not have a computer or a cell phone with an unlimited data plan – things many of us take for granted and are a lifeline for connection. 

So, what can we do? Arts for the Aging visual art workshops are a core component of our programming. It was a natural idea to have our extremely talented teaching artists create an at-home version of those workshops. We could write clear instructions for what to do and provide all the art-making materials in one easy package. Voila! An instant art experience that will provide inspiration and distraction. 

When I started as Program Director in May, teaching artist Marcie Wolf-Hubbard already had a kit in production. The plan was to provide twenty kits for seniors in a local assisted living home. I quickly jumped in to help with administrative support and branding. I named them heART Kits – a fun play on words I’m still amused by. Marcie put everything together, delivered them to the client partner and then… nothing. No feedback, no comments, no artwork to admire and talk about, just the same silence that the seniors isolated in their rooms were experiencing. 

What now? Staff don’t have time to get feedback from the participants, they are focused on keeping everyone safe and healthy. Because of privacy regulations, I don’t have direct contact with our participants. I must pass communication through the client partners’ staff. I had many discussions with those contacts about how Arts for the Aging can best support their members and how can we re-establish that connection between teaching artist and participant. 

The obvious answer is the telephone. Most of the older adults who received a heART Kit have only a landline. But, remember those privacy issues? We can’t have their phone numbers or call them directly.  Then my brainwave happened. I noticed that for some workshops with one client partner, half the participants were never on video. They were calling in from a phone and listening to the program. They couldn’t see it, but they were still enjoying the interaction. We could do that for people who receive a heART Kit! Everything is still in the pilot phase, but we have had our first two hybrid telephonic Zoom workshops and we had way more than silence – we had singing, laughter, and love. 

Enjoy this poem with accompanying signs and gestures created in our latest hybrid workshop!

A Poem and Dance by participants in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Senior Program in Ward 8 with Arts for the Aging Teaching Artist Deborah Riley

I am 

I am strong (arms out making fists)
I am wise (fingertips touching the temples)
I am victorious (arms in front of the body with elbows with fingers up toward the ceiling)
I am complex (arms swaying and waving in front of the body)
I am so proud of my power (jumping in the air like a champion)
I am beautiful (smile, hands around my face, shake my head)
I am resilient (sign for continuing, thumbs together and fists pushing forward)