Throughout the pandemic, senior living leaders have been focused on health and safety as they grapple with the deadly rate of virus infections and its impact on the lives of millions of older adults, staff and their families. As our industry rebuilds quality of life for the elders we serve, TimeSlips partnered with the #ActivitiesStrong initiative led by Linked Senior to launch Shine Your Light – a celebration to illuminate the industry with creative care and celebrate activity and life enrichment professionals and their residents.
Founded by MacArthur Award winner Anne Basting, TimeSlips encourages creativity as a way to bring connection, light, and joy to the lives of elders and those who care for them. Central to their creative engagement techniques is asking Beautiful Questions – open-ended questions that open a shared path of discovery, with no right or wrong answers.
The celebration kicked off with an #ActivitiesStrong webinar on January 19th attended by 800-plus activity and life enrichment professionals nationally. More than 300 people signed up to participate in the event, which ran January 25 through February 26. Through this five-week period, the celebration supported senior living communities in collaborating with older adults so that they could find purpose everyday.
Each week, a new guide was described on Facebook live which resulted in 900-plus views. These guides were made available to participating communities that included prompts for creative conversations and suggestions for engaging activities on the theme of “light.” These guides inspired both residents and staff to find joy and meaning through creative engagement, and supported them in creating a final “celebration of light,” where communities shared their creativity (and light) with others.
The celebration was a success for three reasons:
- Acknowledgement of activity and life enrichment professionals
This five-week celebration helped illuminate senior living during the darkest period of the year and supported communities as they began vaccinating their residents and team members. The Shine Your Light event put the focus on the incredible creativity and resourcefulness of activity and life enrichment professionals who engage with older adults every day in meaningful and purposeful ways.
- Education around the power of creative care
TimeSlips believes the creativity and artistry of older adults is a gift that the whole world deserves. By participating in this project, they wanted to help activity and life enrichment professionals recognize the power of creative engagement and were inspired to join the “creative care revolution,” helping to reimagine the way the world thinks about aging. Each week of the Shine Your Light project focused on a new Beautiful Question, such as “Who is a light in your life?” or “How can we shine light in the world?” Activity professionals were encouraged to use these questions to have a creative conversation with residents and other staff members. To support the weekly activities, TimeSlips led a Facebook Live event for each week and these five videos have already been viewed almost 1,000 times.
- Empowerment through creativity
Residents and activity professionals who participated in the Shine Your Light celebration were invited to lean deeper into their creativity and explore each weekly theme through other curated creative activities, including movement and music-based exercises, creative writing and visual art projects designed for people of various abilities. Each weekly guide also included a “thoughtful action,” which was a gentle invitation to share the creativity of those participating in the project with their community and the wider world, such as sending a postcard or performing a “light dance” from their window to a friend or loved one outside.
The Shine Your Light Celebration marks a historical moment in the history of resident engagement as the senior living industry emerges from COVID-19. In August 2020, Linked Senior surveyed 583 senior living industry team members, and 93% of respondents said resident engagement would emerge from the pandemic stronger benefiting residents, staff and family members.
Their prediction has come true. We believe this celebration is one of many examples of how the #ActivitiesStrong initiative has helped with that progress by acknowledging, educating and empowering activity and life enrichment professionals in the senior living industry. Although the celebration ended on February 26, all the supporting materials of the Shine Your Light Celebration will continue to be available free of charge on the #ActivitiesStrong website.
Andrew Morton is a Detroit-based playwright and theater-maker who creates socially engaged theater with and for vulnerable populations. He works for TimeSlips and as a teaching artist with a variety of social service and arts organizations. Alisa Tagg is association director of the National Association of Activity Professionals and has been a certified activity consultant since 2006 and an activity director, primarily in skilled nursing, since 1995. Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior.