When people see a building with “seniors” in the title they often tend to think of a depressing place – a “warehouse where people wait to die” (a quote from a resident of her former “life”.) This is scandalous and I have spent the last 14 years changing the fact of senior apartment buildings while specializing in Senior Arts (or any age Arts ) Building
I can now walk into a building and read the atmosphere which says everything.
The fact of an Arts colony for seniors.
Last week I closed my office door in a senior arts colony and, unsuspecting, walked into a moment in time that contained the essence of our work in senior buildings. Several of the events that are typically spread out over a week were happening simultaneously!
Music flows out from the clubhouse on my left, a woman sings accompanied by piano and violin. Three residents are being filmed by a documentary film-maker as they rehearse for their upcoming recital.
The library to my left, recently vacated by a poetry group led by a spoken word artist, is now occupied by a group who are deeply engrossed in crafting a story for an online interactive soap opera they are creating; they are part of a pilot designed to reach isolated people.
As I pass the door one of the writers jumps up and rapidly circumnavigates the group, calling my name.
She is Sally, a resident I know well, who after participating in many of the programs I have been instrumental in setting up there, has decided that she is a writer, and indeed celebrated her 80th birthday by publishing a mystery novel.
This day she is so excited that it is palpable and infectious. She tells me that while she was talking to the film-maker, “ he asked to see my paintings. And I told him They are all crap!” She makes a dismissive wave of the hand then continues ”..but he persuaded me and when I pulled them out and looked at them I realized that I was wrong – they are good, I even like most of them” and she beams.
“Does that mean you will be painting some more? “ I ask “Oh yes!” and she returns to her seat, swaying in time to the music.
As I proceed to the exit and walk down the stairs, I see two men leaning on a banister as they survey the street below. I know they don’t speak much English, but one of them had done well at our recent annual Olympics, so I greet them with “Olympics” and thumbs up. They smile and one looks at the other and says with great emphasis “He is Champion!”
Music, writing, painting , winning medals all these themes weaving in and around that moment in time brought me such a sense of fulfillment. Others can talk about it in the abstract but I have the privilege of experiencing the value of our work. And it feels so good. As I write, the memory of that day flows through me like the music that echoes through the hallways of that building.