Sharing stories of the arts connects older adults across Canada

On September 24, 2020, Kate Dupuis, Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging, hosted Arts and Aging Day Canada, a social media event dedicated to profiling artistic activities in older adults’ and their care partners across the nation. Supported by the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, Dupuis spent the day sharing the wide variety of artwork and creative activities happening in long-term care and retirement homes, community organizations and in the homes of community-dwelling older adults through social media.

“It was incredibly exciting to spend the day learning about all the wonderful arts activities older adults are engaging in” says Dupuis. “It was a great reminder that the arts can connect us through difficult times, like the ones we are facing during this pandemic. Creativity is everywhere, and it doesn’t diminish with age.”

Inspired by the work of Arts in Care Homes day in the United Kingdom, Arts and Aging Day Canada encouraged organizations and individuals to share stories of the arts on social media, adding the hashtag #ArtsAndAgingCA to their posts. Over 180 posts were made through the day using this hashtag and over 100 organizations and individuals across four different social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) got involved. There were posts created by senior living organizations and community groups, but other types of organizations shared their stories of arts and aging as well. Museums, academic journals, art galleries and individual community members all joined in to share how the arts have a positive affect on the aging experience.

From painting, crafting, music, theatre and poetry there were many creative examples of older adults engaging with the arts.

“What was really inspiring to see was how everyone came together to create and share such beautiful artwork and experiences, even in these pandemic conditions” says Dupuis. “A resident and a team member from University Gates’ long-term care home performed a beautiful song over livestream. We saw photos from individuals who got together for a physical distanced painting party on their porch, and organizations reached out to showcase the virtual arts programs they are offering for older adults. The sense of community we saw was so exciting and honestly quite overwhelming.”

There were several Arts and Aging Day Canada Champions who shared their activities ahead of time to help spread the word. Their creative projects have been posted on the RIA’s website. Visit https://the-ria.ca/events/arts-and-aging-day-canada/ to learn more.

Dupuis is looking forward to the future of Arts and Aging Canada, hoping to expand next year with new partnerships and more ways to reach new organizations. To see posts from Arts and Aging Day Canada, visit twitter.com/hashtag/ArtsAndAgingCA

A version of this story appeared in the November issues of Research Matters.

Picture: A resident from Fiddick’s Nursing Home in Petrolia shows off their Arts and Aging Day Canada project.