Seniors Reaching Out

Organization Associated with Program
2501 Harrison St.
Oakland, California 94612

Seniors Reaching Out is made up of four theatrical troupes and individual storytellers, all older performers from Stagebridge Senior Theatre. The troupes present musical performances at a wide variety of venues serving older adults in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as senior centers, senior residences, hospitals, and hospices. Two of the troupes offer 20th century musical standards ranging from show tunes to blues. One is a jazz duo, and one is the Antic Witties, which interacts with older audiences to create improvisational skits. In addition to offering live entertainment for low-mobility older people, performers are excellent and inspiring role models who demonstrate that old age can be a lot of fun.  Performances last 45 minutes to one hour. Seniors Reaching Out also sends older storytellers to these same venues to entertain, engage, and reawaken the memories of older adults. Grant subsidies allow Stagebridge to offer these programs free of charge.

Program History

Based in Oakland, California, Stagebridge is the nation’s oldest theatre company for older adults Founded in 1978 by Dr. Stuart Kandell, Stagebridge has grown from an acting class for five women in their 70s to a nationally recognized performing arts and outreach program that is changing how people experience and view aging. Stagebridge’s Seniors Reaching Out program was launched in 1998 as a way to bring the arts to older adults in place.

Stagebridge Senior Theatre works to fulfill its mission to fundamentally transform American attitudes towards aging from the traditional image of decline to a new vision of continuous growth. Stagebridge has a unique position as a theatre company “for, by, and of” older adults that demonstrates in action the many ways in which older people improve and enrich their cultures and communities. Stagebridge trains older adults to sing, dance, and act, and when they reach a certain level of proficiency they are paid to go into the community and perform.

When Stagebridge was first launched, there were not many arts engagement opportunities that specifically targeted older populations. Many older adults languished in retirement home settings that provided little stimulation beyond a television screen or Tuesday night bingo. Today, Stagebridge uses improvisation, acting, and storytelling to help people have the time of their life—at this stage of their life.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Seniors Reaching Out is evaluated on an ongoing basis throughout the program’s duration through the use of interviews, individual assessments, and attendance records. Evaluations are conducted by staff of Stagebridge and of the organizations where the troupes are performing. Evaluations are used to create new programming and update existing programs.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Use replicable models like Stagebridge when developing theatre programs in your community.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in an Ensemble, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Arts Discipline: Music, Musical Theater, Theater
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education, Employment, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Community Center, Healthcare - Acute Care (e.g. Clinic / Hospital), Healthcare - Palliative Care / Hospice, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Healthcare - Home Care, Library, Social Service Agency
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice