The Wartburg Council for Creative Aging

Organization Associated with Program
The Wartburg Adult Care Community
1 Wartburg Pl.
Mount Vernon, New York 10552

The Wartburg Council for Creative Aging of Mt. Vernon, New York hosts a variety of art classes and workshops conducted by professional teaching artists. Groups meet on a weekly basis for 45-60 minute classes, depending on the topic. Arts programs run in eight week sessions, and the Wartburg Adult Care Community has two art exhibitions each year to showcase participants’ work. The council serves approximately 450 older adults each year.

Wartburg launched its creative aging initiative in 2011. We joined National Center for Creative Aging in order to support the mission of expanding opportunities for creative expression and healthy aging. Our organization’s Council for Creative Aging provides an opportunity for self-expression, life-long learning, fun, a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem for residents, many of whom have cognitive or physical impairments. The organization’s mission is to nurture mind, body and spirit, and the Council is part of this organization’s holistic approach to senior care.

The Council for Creative Aging was formed to implement the findings of a research grant from a foundation. A local non-profit organization that develops library-based senior creative aging programs, Lifetime Arts, helped to develop the program’s framework. The research grant enabled a survey of seniors in each program to determine their needs and desires. In the first year of the program, an Americorps volunteer joined the Council in order to coordinate teaching artists. To reduce costs, bartered space on campus allowed teaching artists to also conduct community art classes. After barely two months, the first arts festival was held at the community’s chapel. Residents, who had rehearsed under separate roofs, performed under the baton of a professional chorus instructor and performer. Paintings created by registrants of the adult day programs, many of whom have dementia, and ceramics designed and painted by skilled nursing residents, were on display. The African drumming circle played, inviting audience members of all ages, we always invite a school to join us, onto the stage to perform, in the spirit of intergenerational community. We have since had a Spring and Winter concert each year with the chorus, drumming and now our graduate students from Sarah Lawrence’s Dance Therapy program have joined and have the audience join in for a dance.

The organization’s board and administration fully support the creative aging initiative, which includes painting, ceramics, computer use, oral histories, chorus, drumming and improvisation. In January of 2012, the organization’s Council for Creative Aging was selected as one of two winners in the Partners for Livable Communities’ 2011 Stories for Change Contest. Highlighted as a ‘Best Practice’ for innovative arts programs addressing the growing needs of older adults, this organization’s Council for Creative Aging will be featured in an international publication supported by the MetLife Foundation highlighting the work of over 70 U.S. organizations. We were also awarded one of NY Leading Age’s Innovation of the Year in 2012.

Last year we started a new program with a graduate student from Sarah Lawrence College. He came to us with the idea of having our residents make puppets and putting on a show. While we were unsure of how the program would work, we were all amazed at the performance in May. The clients in the adult day care made their own puppets, gave them names and identities and were able to communicate things through their puppets that otherwise they were uncomfortable to do so.

Also last Spring, our Creative Aging Program was chosen by PBS’s Visionaries show to highlight what we do here. They were here the day of the performance and it will be included in the show which should be ready to be shown on local PBS stations come April. We were so impressed with the project that we hired Josh to do the same in our other facilities on campus. He just finished a 6 week class in our Memory Care division of our assisted living and we had a performance where the residents family’s came. It was great to see family members watch their loved ones participate and enjoy themselves. He now has started a class on our dementia unit of our nursing home and is getting great feedback from residents. For this group we have added a student from Sarah Lawrence who is doing a research project and we are monitoring the residents week by week to see how they are progressing with the program.

Program History

What the Lutheran minister, Reverend William A. Passavant, began as the Wartburg Orphans’ Farm School in 1866 has evolved into the Wartburg Adult Care Community, which is dedicated to helping older adults live with dignity, whether in their own homes or on our campus. Through it all, the mission has remained constant—nurturing body, mind, and spirit. Wartburg now offers assisted living, skilled nursing, independent living, rehabilitation and respite programs, and hospice services. Home care, day services, and various supports for caregivers are available. Wartburg provides outreach to local parishes, senior centers, and civic organizations.

The Wartburg Council for Creative Aging was established in 2010 as a result of the Wartburg Adult Care Community’s partnership with Lifetime Arts, an arts service organization based in New Rochelle, New York. Lifetime Arts conducted an assessment of the Wartburg campus, which was used by the Wartburg Adult Care Community in deciding how best to design its arts programming.

The Community has also partnered with arts councils, local community organizations, and local artists to successfully establish arts programming for participants. The Wartburg Council for Creative Aging continues the Wartburg Adult Care Community’s faith based mission “to provide ministries of healing and hope through creative arts which nurture body, mind, and spirit of all older adults entrusted in our care.”

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Programs are evaluated once at the end of the session by staff and volunteers through the use of attendance numbers, press reviews, interviews, and surveys.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

There are many ways to save costs by obtaining free or in-kind services from arts groups in your community. Consider trading space for arts programming with organizations in the community. Also work with local colleges or universities to set up internship opportunities.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Arts Discipline: Folk/Traditional Arts, Literature, Media Arts, Music, Opera, Theater, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Ecology / Gardening / Natural Environments, Health / Medicine, Housing / Placemaking, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Psychiatric Disabilities
Program Setting: Adult Day Care, Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Assisted Living, Healthcare - Acute Care (e.g. Clinic / Hospital), Healthcare - Palliative Care / Hospice, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Healthcare - Home Care
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Promising Practices