Living History Storytelling and the Hands Across the Ages

Organization Associated with Program
Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc
805 Nathan Hale Drive
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19382

The Living History Storytelling program at the Kennett Area Senior Center is currently in its eighth year, and has been replicated at the Coatesville area senior center.  There are over 30 seniors who participate weekly. During the program, participants share stories based on a weekly prompt. The sessions often include movement and songs. In June, the group presented their stories at the June Birthday luncheon for both centers.

Arts Holding Hands and Hearts also runs an intergenerational program, Hands Across the Ages, where seniors and teenagers come together to share their stories and create a theater piece that includes spoken word, movement, and dance. Stories are presented to the community with opportunity for dialog with the audience.

Program History

The program that launched the LivingHistory Storytelling program at the Kennett Area Senior Center was the NCCA "Creativity Matters" Town Hall meeting at the WorldCafe Live in Philadelphia, PA. Program creator, Jan Michener, is a member of CAAN and was one of the organizers. She is a teaching artist for Philadelphia Young Playwrights and decided to do a 10-session storytelling program with seniors and is in the eight year of that 10-week program. The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has generously funded the program every year. Since it's beginning, the program has expanded it to other centers and added the intergenerational component with Hands Across the Ages with the mission of sharing our stories to honor and cherish our gifts, respect our differences, and build community.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Evaluations are conducted ongoing throughout the program by the staff. Evaluations include interviews, individual assessments, attendance numbers, and press reviews.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

It is very important to set expectations of creative engagement and create a safe space where all voices are heard and honored in a non judgmental atmosphere. The five agreements set at the beginning of each session are: 1. Keep yourself safe both emotionally and physically, 2. Keep each other safe emotionally and physically, 3. Be present and participate 4. Take risks and say yes to possibilities 5. Have fun

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Music
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education, History, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Psychiatric Disabilities
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Community Center, Education (e.g. School / University), Library
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: