Wisdom In Our Community Program©
There is a very deep vein of wisdom in our communities at the Senior Center and Retirement Communities in your town. The goal of the “Wisdom In Our Community Program,” is to transform negative ideas about aging in our culture into positive beliefs about the strength, wisdom and contributions of senior citizens to their communities by documenting their personal histories through visual art kits and storytelling. Once the art and storytelling projects are finished, the results will be exhibited at a public venue such as an art gallery, library, museum or other venue in their community. This way, the public can acknowledge the stories of the elders who live in their town and appreciate the wisdom and history contained in their stories.
Reminiscing can have many positive effects on an aging adult. According to the American Psychology Association, therapy using reminiscence is “the use of life histories – written, oral or both – to improve psychological well-being.” This therapy relies on helping individuals remember past experiences through sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell.
Here are some additional reasons why reminiscing with seniors is a beneficial tool: preserving family history, improves senior’s quality of life, reduces symptoms of depression, promotes physical health, works through unresolved conflicts, eliminates boredom, improves communication skills, reduces stress and enhances self-esteem.
The Wisdom In Our Community Program© consists of arts based projects that elicit personal and family stories. The following are the projects in the program.
Family Tree Poems – Document your personal history stories and turn them into short, narrative poems. Easy phrases to complete into sentences about the past will be provided and sentences will be turned into story poems we can all relate to. Once a story poem is finished, we create a watercolor “splash” background on which we will print your story.
Life Path Book or Poster Project– Create a “Life Path Book or Poster Project” which charts significant moments in your life by drawing and labeling the path that your life has taken on a poster or in a book. When finished, you will have a compelling reminder of how far you’ve come and the things you’ve done. Drawing, doodles, words, copies of photos and simple collage are used to tell your story.
Collage Your Kin – Create a portrait collage of a loved one or of yourself. You will make a background that represents that person, glue a copied photo of your person to the background and collage small items that represent that person. All supplies are included in this project.
Bringing Senior Art to Galleries – Create a show of the artworks made by seniors from the Wisdom In Our Community© program. Works will be shown in a local gallery with an opening reception and the public will be invited to view the show. The logistics of hanging an art show will be given with this entire program. This will allow the community in which your seniors are living to learn who the seniors are that live in their town.
Along the way, a person trained to use this curriculum helps guide the activity by asking thoughtful questions and rendering close listening to stories. Rosano described working with a World War II veteran who had never shared with anyone terrifying details of his being on a ship in the Pacific that was bombed during the war. Slowly over time, working with Rosano, he was able to tell the story through art and composition. The collage was made with one of his stories in the background.
“No matter who you are or what you’ve done in your life, everyone’s got things to reminisce about. These arts activities concentrate on the stories from your life, whether they are about happy, positive times or about tragedies or things that were negative that happened to you.
While working in a Connecticut hospice program, Rosano brought a sampling of artwork projects done by hospice patients to many galleries in a show called “Completing the Journey: The Art of Hospice,” which traveled around the state for two years.
“Those who saw the show were deeply moved, even to tears, by what they were experiencing through the artwork and poetic stories,” Rosano explained. “By seeing all this work, we are learning how deep the wisdom in our communities extends. We usually don’t come in contact with these histories in such depth.” The Wisdom in Our Communities program culminates in exhibiting the work in a local art gallery.
Bring the “Wisdom In Our Community Program© to your seniors. Susan is available to teach your staff the program, work with individuals to help create the projects, or do an online class for your venue.
Contact Susan Rosano for further information at email@example.com.