A six-week arts and discussion program called Project Inspire brought older adults together from diverse social and cultural backgrounds to produce collaborative art and discuss their views on ageism.
United Active Living worked closely with United Way and two of its agency partners – LINKages Society and the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association (CCECA) to bring the project to life.
United learning and development coordinator Nicole Moore lead the discussion with participants on ageism. She worked closely with United’s creative facilitators to link the discussion with the artwork developed as part of the program. “Through the project we wanted to raise awareness about ageism,” said creative facilitator Sage Wheeler. “From that discussion, we would build that awareness into making art together. Each community experiences ageism in different ways, so this was a great opportunity to see how other cultures have different perspectives.”
For some participants, this was the first time they had tried their hands at creating art. “One of our participants, Jenny, had not drawn in more than 50 years,” said Elly Li, assistant program coordinator with CCECA. “This project has really opened up the idea that they can draw or be a painter. Creativity isn’t limited by age. Jenny, for example, is a singer but she wasn’t sure about other creative aspects. Through the program she realized that she could create something new. She loved it!”
At the closing event, program participant Jenny Nau helped participant Gui Ying Tao express her appreciation for the program.
Susan Brooke, a community impact planner for United Way said the project came about following a donation to the United Way that would benefit older adults. Isolation and ageism – common issues for older adults – were targeted for special attention through the project. “This was an opportunity for older adults to talk about ageism. The project truly lived up to its name. It brought older adults who might not have been involved in a creative community before to experience the creative process. And the weekly discussions around ageism really raised the understanding about what older adults are feeling and thinking, so it truly was an inspiring project.”
“The highlight for me was seeing our participants boost their confidence, meet new people and learn a new art form. It was very exciting!” said Alicia Lewis, LINKages’ office administrator and program support. “This was a terrific opportunity for our seniors to become less socially isolated and combat misconceptions about aging. I was inspired by the knowledge that they aren’t held back by anything, that as I get older, I can continue to be creative.”
The participants – five from each group – connected closely with each other, with some becoming fast friends. “It’s so exciting when someone finds their creative voice,” said Sage. “Finding your voice is what we’re here for and art is an overlooked way of doing that.”
“Even though some of us don’t speak the same language, the best part was getting to know each other through gestures and laughter,” said United Active Living resident Hertha Reich. “I loved the painting and learning new styles. I don’t know what I’d do without art.”
“I’m really excited for the next session, which starts Nov. 2!” said Sage.
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