The Great Turning Trip: Center for the Elderly and the Youth in the Arts
CEYA: Institute on Aging
On Friday afternoon we visited the Center for the Elderly and Youth in the Arts (CEYA), which is a program of the Institute on Aging in San Francisco. It provides the elderly a nurturing daycare environment alongside an opportunity to engage in creativity through the arts and intergenerational sharing with youth volunteers. It is an inspiring place, with warm old folks and smiling volunteers. But you can’t help but wonder at the end of the day, where and who they go home to. Or who doesn’t get this opportunity at all. It struck me to pay attention to the generation gap within our society. It is now an emerging worldview to give respect and acknowledgement to the ancient knowledge that we used to harbor – to pay attention to the wealth of knowledge that humans have accumulated over millennia. Yet to a large extent we are systemically divided from the elderly of our society, from the old wisdom that presently exists. They live alone in their old age, and usually in a home specifically for senior citizens. Personally, I felt a rekindled awareness of who is in this generation we’re talking about when it comes to a generation waking up, which we talked about earlier that morning.
Jessie McCracken, the program director, showed us around and talked about the power of storytelling, and of creative engagement. This seemed to be a theme of the visit. Through their art, the elderly at the daycare were able to express themselves, share, and ultimately feel a sense of connection and purpose each day. One intergenerational workshop that the program does is an interview project between a youth and an elder, through which the elder shares their story and the youth interviews, takes note, and shares the story back to the whole group. It is empowering for them to be heard and to be given such respect, acknowledgement, and worth. One statistic that sank me was that the people most prone to suicide in America are the senior citizens of our society. They are marginalized in our culture. Little of what we consider productive they are able to contribute to. Much of the week during this trip we spent with new organizations promoting youth engagement, ‘a generation waking up’, and our 15 billion year old existence. It was not until this last visit that things came together for me, that bringing the elderly population and their care into the picture is so necessary if we are moving to create sustainability, social and environmental justice, and peace in this time. We are here, said one well-known monk, to awaken from the illusion of our separateness. I think this means recognizing that we have much to learn from the stories and creativity that our grandparents can contribute.
FOLLOW THIS LINK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CEYA: http://ceya.ioaging.org/artists/artists_senior_programs.html