In late 2010, as it became increasingly difficult for my elderly mother to process new information or engage in coherent conversation, I began to explore alternative ways for the two of us to connect. Being a visual artist with a long-term interest in participatory experiences that evoke wonder and delight, I naturally turned to activities rich in the expressive arts. Mask play, theater games, mirroring exercises, music, art making, crafts, etc. all brought fresh stimulation into my mother’s day, along with surprisingly lucid moments. Qualities that had long been absent as aging took its toll re-emerged; our weekly visits became enlivening occasions full of shared discovery.
I call this approach ElderSparks because it honors the spirit that still flickers within a weakened shell. Too often in America, individuals like my mother are parked in front of TV or movie screens, babysat at Bingo, passively entertained by talented musicians and performers, or left unattended for hours in beds or wheelchairs. In a civilized society, this underserved population, which has already contributed so much, deserves better.
My hope is that ElderSparks will grow to include other similarly inspired artists who share its twofold mission: working with individuals and/or groups to engage the inner life of seniors with limited cognitive functioning, and training aides and caregivers to become willing and able accomplices.
This blog is a journal of the work as it unfolds.
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