History Alive (Generating Community)

Organization Associated with Program
Elders Share the Arts
138 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, New York 11217

In History Alive (Generating Community)—a program of Elders Share the Arts (ESTA) of Brooklyn, New York—older adults and youth serve as resources for one another by sharing stories from their life experience. This enables students to relate learning to everyday life; to understand themselves as active, responsible members of their communities; and to gain exposure to diverse perspectives. At the same time, the program brings older adults out of isolation into new relationships with youth, one another, and their communities. By encouraging older people to share their wisdom and life experiences, the program validates the meaning of their lives. Participants generally meet once a week from eight to twelve weeks or longer (depending on the requests of partner sites). All programs culminate with a final event that take multiple forms and includes combinations of readings, performances, visual exhibitions, and the publishing of participants' stories in an anthology.

Program History

History Alive (Generating Community) arose out of a perceived need to address the generation gap between older adults and youth. Elders Share the Arts believes that its intergenerational programming will forge a necessary dialogue between older people and youth, in which youth will benefit from the rich and diverse stories of their elders while gaining valuable context for their everyday lives.

Program Research and Key Findings

In 2001, ESTA was selected as one of four participating sites nationwide in the groundbreaking research study, “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” conducted by Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Institute on Health, Humanities, and Aging at George Washington University. This was the first longitudinal study of its kind, and its findings point to the direct impact of creative engagement on overall physical, mental, and emotional health. Furthermore, Cohen concluded that creativity in older adults can flourish with greater depth and richness given the vast knowledge and experiences that inform their creative efforts. This belief inspired and continues to be reflected in every program at Elders Share the Arts.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Programs are evaluated by ESTA staff and partner organizations multiple times on an ongoing basis through the use of interviews, individual assessments, and attendance numbers. Program outcomes are defined using a document entitled “Indicators of Program Success,” which focuses on four categories: Mastery, Wellness and Quality of Life, Community, and Cultural Awareness. Evaluations are a part of ESTA’s planning process.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Dance, Folk/Traditional Arts, Literature, Media Arts, Music, Theater, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education, Health / Medicine, History, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Intergenerational
Program Setting: Adult Day Care, Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Assisted Living, Community Center, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Library, Social Service Agency, Sports, Recreation or Health Club (e.g. YMCA/YWCA)
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice