Art and Aging: COMPAS at Gianna Homes
COMPAS, a community arts organization, helps Gianna Homes host artists as part of their Artful Aging program. This program provides talented artists of different mediums to guide older adults in exploring creative expression in meaningful ways. Their artists are highly trained and skilled in working with the elderly, from fully independent to those with limited abilities. Pat Samples (Artful Aging program director) shared, “We’re excited at COMPAS to help ignite the creative spark of residents at Gianna Homes Sursum-Corda and Gladys’ Place. Research has shown that regular participation in professionally led arts learning programs improves the physical, social, and mental health of people in their older years. Cognitive abilities can even show improvement.”
Rachel Mortiz, a working poet and writer, visited both of Gianna Homes residences and led a multi-sensory poetry programming focusing on birds. Residents heard bird calls and words about birds by Tennyson and others, saw pictures and nests, held stuffed birds in their hands, and had the opportunity to write their own work.
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Moritz shared that this lesson plan has proven very rich for prompted call and response conversation. In speaking about her work, she went on to say: “One of my core beliefs is that art matters–to everyone–during our whole life journey. You don’t have to be a self-described artist. Music, dance and movement, visual art, story-telling, poetry: it doesn’t matter any less to an older adult than to my four-year-old son. Art helps us be present in the moments of our lives. Art-making is a way to learn new skills and explore new arenas at any point in a lifeline. And for older adults with memory loss/dementia, the process of call-and-response poetry recitation is a little like singing; it can awaken the mind and jump-start the body and spirit.”
Gianna Homes residents had the opportunity to experience the visual art talents of Anne Krocak, a nationally recognized artist for her contributions to vulnerable populations, through water colors and silk scarf painting. Not only did the residents paint, but they also had time to look at each other’s work, to comment, and interact with each other. The particular projects she chose allowed for adaptation to specific resident needs and were engaging on as many levels as possible. She says “There are very few things in my life that I am more passionate about than bringing high quality art opportunities to older adults and people with special needs.” As a person who has lived through a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at age 17, she has found the importance of art in her own life. “I found that artistic creation helped me deal with the chronic pain, overwhelming lack of control, new limitations, stress, anxiety, and frustration of living with chronic illness. Because of my experiences with art, I deeply believe in the value and many benefits of artistic creation for older adults and their need to continue to express themselves, make choices, and connect with others while having fun and learning new skills.”
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During each experience we have with COMPAS, smiles are shared, laughter is heard, and community is built. Although the creations may not be Monet, each participant benefits from the social interaction, a sense of purpose and well being, triggers of memories and emotions, thinking ahead, movement, planning…. the arts provide a whole brain response. We are so thankful for these opportunities for our residents.
To see more of what Gianna Homes does that set’s us apart (in addition to Art Therapies), check out our Lifecare Services model.
To learn more about COMPAS, click here.