Building on the success of a pilot project in 2020, the Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA) and the Vermont Arts Council partnered in 2021 to develop a second Creative Care Kit project for homebound older adults and to build creative aging capacity across the state.
The Creative Care Kit project, led by Luke Rackers at CVCOA, provides skills-based, practice-focused, and social-centric creative arts opportunities to older adults in their homes. The kits include activities designed by professional teaching artists along with enough high-quality supplies and materials to help people build creative skills over several months. Kit recipients can also connect with a Creative Companion volunteer who helps inspire their creative journey. All participants can attend virtual group opportunities to enhance skills and share their work.
The year’s iteration of the project launched in July 2021 with a gathering of teaching artists and aging services professionals, followed by a training for teaching artists organized by Troy Hickman, Arts Education Programs Manager for the Vermont Arts Council, and led by Lifetime Arts. “Teaching artists are assets to communities across the state,” says Hickman. “We had more than 20 artists work with Lifetime Arts instructors to focus on providing arts instruction for older adults and promoting social engagement. It’s exciting to support Creative Aging in Vermont.”
Vermont teaching artists submitted proposals to design the Creative Care Kit activities. Four teaching artists were selected, along with activities focused on writing art-inspired poetry and storytelling through drawing, illustrating, and cartooning. These teaching artists also lead group Zoom opportunities for participants to share their work.
Volunteers work with kit recipients throughout the winter and spring to encourage continued practice and sharing of work. “Volunteers enhance social connection by leading conversations around creativity and sharing stories that arise in the creative process,” says Rackers, CVCOA Director of Development and Communications. “We are incredibly grateful for all the amazing volunteers who are committed to this project and to connecting with older adults through creative activities.”
Creative Care Kit participants could also receive an iPad, internet connection, and individualized tech training as part of their kit this year. This increased access to technology helps reduce social isolation and loneliness by providing the tools that kit recipients need to participate in virtual gatherings. The technology also facilitates the sharing of work and provides more options for connection between kit recipients and volunteers. During the first virtual group gathering, one participant noted, “I need a group to do it with … if I’m alone there are other things to do and I just don’t get to it.” Another person echoed the sentiment, saying, “I need the motivation!”
“Enhancing social connection for older adults through creativity and technology is a primary goal of this project,” says Rackers. “Arts opportunities like the Creative Care Kits are a great way to encourage meaningful conversations and build strong social bonds, while also providing the motivation necessary for older adults to engage with technology.” Those who received an iPad with their kit can keep it beyond the project period to continue communicating with others virtually and accessing resources and opportunities online.
This project was awarded with an Honorable Mention for the Mather Institute’s Promising Practices Awards and is featured in USAging’s engAGED Innovations Hub. CVCOA will be hosting a public creative aging celebration event in the spring to showcase and honor the creative work of older adult artists, including the Creative Care Kit participants.
The Creative Care Kit pilot project was funded in 2020 through grants from AARP and the Vermont Community Foundation, along with many local donors. This year’s project was funded through a grant from Meals on Wheels America to help bridge the digital divide and enhance social connectedness for homebound older adults through their More Than a Meal initiative. This activity and the creative aging capacity building effort is made possible by a grant provided by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in partnership with Aroha Philanthropies.
If you are age 60+ and are interested in receiving a Creative Care Kit, or if you are interested in volunteering as a Creative Companion or event supporter (all ages welcome to volunteer), please contact Luke Rackers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-479-1953. Find additional resources on Creative Aging on the Vermont Arts Council website at www.vermontartscouncil.org/programs/creative-aging.
Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA) supports older Central Vermonters to age with dignity and choice in 54 towns. Visit the CVCOA website at www.cvcoa.org or call the CVCOA Helpline at 1-800-642-5119 for more information or assistance. CVCOA is located at 59 North Main Street, Suite 200 in Barre with regional offices located in Morrisville, Randolph, South Royalton and Rochester.