Creative Aging Directory - Museum of Photographic Arts

Program Title
Seniors Exploring Photography Identity and Appreciation (SEPIA)
Program Summary

Seniors Exploring Photography, Identity, and Appreciation is an initiative of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in San Diego, California.  The program is comprised of three primary components: creative photography courses, engaging art talks, and interactive museum tours.

Creative Photography Courses
Covering a range of topics from digital photography for beginners to hands-on creative classes focusing on art-making, the photography courses take place once a week for four weeks.  Each class is approximately two hours long, during which a short lesson is covered followed by a hands-on activity to put the day’s lesson into practice. The goal of the courses is to provide participants with a space for social engagement, to help build new skills, and to empower seniors to use the photography in new, creative ways which they find meaningful in their lives.  The four-week courses are coordinated between the museum and local community partners and senior service providers.

Engaging Art Talks
The SEPIA program offers one-time art talks focusing on a specific theme or recent exhibition at the Museum, in essence bringing MOPA and its collection of images to the participants at long-term care facilities. The talk is designed to be interactive and is centered on developing greater visual literacy and confidence for self-expression.  Older adults are guided and encouraged to participate in the discussion and interpretation of each photograph.  Each art talk runs approximately 45 minutes, and are coordinated between the museum and local community partners and senior service providers.

Interactive Museum Tours
SEPIA also hosts tours for older adults, with many specifically designed to accomodate those living with mild Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.  Rather than a lecture, the tour is based on interaction and exploration, encouraging the participants to actively see and analyze, and promoting dialogue between the seniors, their caregivers, and family members.  Museum docents have received training from both the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Museum of Modern Art in New York on how to facilitate such tours.  The tours are coordinated between the museum and local community partners and senior service providers.


Program Background and History

SEPIA is an educational outreach initiative of the Museum of Photographic Arts that brings creative and socially engaging photography programs to older adults in San Diego County, home to an older population of more than 353,000 and growing. SEPIA supports a growing body of research indicating that older adults have great capacity to learn new skills and knowledge and that community-based art programs have lasting positive effects on their physical and mental health. This program was started in 2010 and serves over 1,000 people per year.

Program-Specific Research and Key Findings
Program-Specific Assessment and Evaluation

The program is evaluated multiple times on an ongoing basis throughout its duration through the use of surveys, observation, attendance records, press reviews, and interviews. Program evaluations are conducted by staff and an outside independent evaluator.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

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City (Main)
San Diego
State (Main)
Phone-Phone (Main)
(619) 238-7559
Facebook Link
Twitter Link
Arts Discipline
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus
Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus Other
Interdisciplinary Connections
Health / Medicine
Creative engagement
Target Audience
Active Adults, Frail Older Adults
Adaptive Program Design
Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Adaptive Program Design Other
Program Setting
Arts Organization, Assisted Living, Sports, Recreation or Health Club (e.g. YMCA/YWCA)
Program Service Area / Geography
Program Service Area / Geography Other

San Diego County