The New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) works with more than 40 senior service organizations around Boston to welcome approximately 75 older adult learners onto their campus each week. When the pandemic initially hit, NEC knew they had to quickly adapt to a virtual world and maintain the connection between their older adult students, faculty, college students and community partners. Faculty and staff transitioned their one-on-one lessons to a virtual format and creating innovative and responsive virtual programs for large groups of senior participants.
Since March 2020, the San Francisco Community Music Center (CMC) has developed several new ways to adapt their Older Adult Choir Program (OACP), which serves nearly 400 older adults in senior centers throughout San Francisco, to a successful online learning platform. To keep their dynamic choir communities connected during COVID-19, the CMC worked with their senior center partners, where brick and mortar choirs take place, to create instructional videos on their YouTube Channel, which led to implementing sessions on Zoom.
For the past three years, Dane Stauffer has been teaching a storytelling program series at the Park Square Theater in Minneapolis, MN. Dane was in the middle of teaching the last segment when COVID-19 forced the theater to close. With the theater’s blessing, Dane shifted to an online format and retitled the program: “Storytellers Online: Bringing Our Stories to the World.”
Stagebridge is the nation’s oldest and most renowned theatre company for older adults. Founded in Oakland, CA in 1978 by Dr. Stuart Kendall, the organization’s mission is to enrich the lives of older adults and their communities through the performing arts.
When COVID-19 forced teachers and students at Stagebridge to shelter in place, their programming was between sessions. Staff took time to decide how to proceed with their popular Performing Arts Institute, which offers classes in acting, musical theater, tap and modern dance, devised and playback theater, storytelling, and stand-up comedy.
Teaching Artist, Susan Willerman, has been teaching “Writing From Life” at Morningside Retirement and Health Services in the Washington Heights neighborhood of NYC for 26 consecutive years. The class started as a program of Elders Share the Arts in 1994, and now continues as part of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative. When COVID-19 forced members to shelter at home, Susan and Tiana, one of the members, worked together to develop the most effective ways to continue the program online.
Lifetime Arts Roster Teaching Artist, Greacian Goeke, has taught her signature class, “Free to Move: Expressive Movement & Rhythm for Brain & Body Health,” at the Albany Senior Center outside of Oakland, CA for the last 10 years. The class is an opportunity to, “…interact and explore the expressive language of movement, sharpening both physical and mental agility.”
Greacian and her students were devastated when COVID-19 forced the Albany Senior Center to shut down. However, she immediately reached out to her students to propose continuing online via Zoom.
Annie Montgomery, Lifetime Arts’ Director of Education, and Julie Kline, Education Associate, talk about what COVID-19 meant for the arts education field; the genesis of the campaign; why we are offering Creative Aging 101 now; and about channeling our support for remote program adaptation in ways that focus on upholding the tenets of Creative Aging programming.
Creative aging programming is distinct from other community-based learning in that it ensures that the needs of older adult learners are met, their art-making skills are developed, explored, and practiced, and community is built through the experience. Please refer to this resource as a guidepost when designing your own curriculum.
Since launching the Creative Aging 101 mini-course in April 2020, Lifetime Arts also developed a series of recommendations designed to assist teaching artists and programming organizations who are considering offering remote classes. This guide addresses topics such as: art form, class size, suggested curriculum adaptations, adult learning, synchronous vs. asynchronous delivery, technology considerations, and social engagement ideas.
In this case study, Lifetime Arts Trainer, Vinny Mraz, talks about the “Comedy Workshop” program which he has led in senior centers in the NYC area. This case study provides insight into the variety of ways a creative aging program might work depending on the community the program serves.