Creative Pathways to Healthy Aging: Seniors and Youth Engage | MEKTU | NB-IRDT | UNB

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Creative Pathways to Healthy Aging: Seniors and Youth Engage

Lead organization: Go Ahead Seniors

Principle investigator(s): Diane O’Connor and Judy Murphy

About the project:

The issue

Research shows that social isolation in seniors contributes to worsening health, mental distress, depression, anxiety, and increased pain. Saint John’s low-income neighbourhoods are home to over 400 seniors and elderly who live in subsidized housing and almost 4,000 children who live in poverty. Both groups face unique challenges. These low-income seniors deal with life transitions including loss of loved ones, physical changes, chronic health conditions, changes in social support networks, isolation, loneliness and vulnerability. Children face challenges of poverty, family neglect and violence.

The importance

Senior care homes do not often provide an opportunity for their residents to share their skills with others.  Helping younger generations learn allows seniors to see their age and life experience as valuable. A sense of connection will increase seniors’ confidence to take personal risks when trying new activities and increase their willingness to engage with others. Seniors will learn how expressive arts activities can promote caring behaviours and create learning exchanges with youth and the broader community. Connecting children with a senior partner provides social connection and security which may improve the child’s well-being.

What makes this project different

This approach uses expressive arts as a vehicle for knowledge exchange, artistic expression, enhanced social wellness, increased sense of purpose, and community building between seniors and youth.  Seniors will participate in the development of an interactive multimedia toolkit to support other communities offering intergenerational programs.

Go Ahead Seniors, Senior Goodwill Ambassadors, Department of Social Development, Elizabeth Fry Society of Saint John, The Boys and Girls Club of Saint John, Centennial School, and the University of New Brunswick work collaboratively to offer two 12-week programs through expressive arts for seniors and youth in Saint John’s priority areas: North End and Waterloo Village in a COVID-19 friendly environment.

Anticipated impacts

This program is designed to improve the lives of seniors and children through social connection and collaborative projects. By connecting with seniors, children will be exposed to the positive aspects of aging. Seniors will be validated and respected for their knowledge and wisdom. This experience will encourage them to model and build leadership capacity in their communities. Participating in the development of a multi-media toolkit, empowers the seniors to share with their experiences with a larger audience. This experience will enhance the positive impacts of the program.

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