Central Senior Services Joins Moore College of Art to Fight Social Isolation During Pandemic

By Richard L. RSS Thu, July 22, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the impact of loneliness and social isolation on American seniors and the results are deeply disturbing.

Extensive studies of the subject reveal that social isolation of older adults significantly increases their risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. When older adults experience social isolation for prolonged periods, their risk of dementia increases by 50%, heart disease by 29%, and stroke by 32%.

Sensitive to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a negative "perfect storm" for Philadelphia seniors, Lisa-Jane Erwin, head of Parkway Central Library’s Senior Services and Homebound Departments, welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Susan Conway, head of Parkway Central Library’s Art and Literature Departments, and Dr. Maya Pindyck, Director of Writing at the Moore College of Art and Design to develop an intergenerational program targeting vulnerable seniors.

In this pilot program, approximately 15 Hybrid Genres students from Moore telephoned a group of Philadelphia seniors, pre-selected by the staff of Central Senior Services, for a weekly series of in-depth conversations that lasted up to an hour.

Over a period of six weeks, Moore students and their senior partners built relationships of mutual trust while discussing a range of topics, including how the seniors were coping during this national health emergency, their interest in and experiences with art, as well as their fondest memories. The students then created an informal yet visually stunning magazine, or zine, to record their experiences with the seniors entitled "Care Crisis: A Time Capsule About Art & Curating During a Pandemic".

Asked why she felt that this collaboration with Moore was important, Lisa-Jane Erwin responded,

"We are always looking for new and better strategies for serving older adults in Greater Philadelphia.  In a time of national emergency, you don’t simply rest on your past accomplishments. The Moore project represented an important opportunity for us to remind our clients how much we care about them and to provide a service that they really needed."

The students’ recording of their deepest feelings and responses while working on this project demonstrates a combination of searing honesty, amazing creativity, and a deep desire to understand the feelings and experiences of people 40 to 60 years older than them.

Student Wilder Francone bonded with her senior partner Lenore over their shared love of Venice, Italy. Wilder created a beautiful map of the city recording Lenore’s favorite places.

Few students expressed their feelings and vulnerabilities more openly than Emma Robinson. While Emma’s senior partner, Lynne, has traveled widely, visiting the great art museums of Europe, Emma has not. She recalls visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art and dreaming that her own work was displayed there.

And, as student Jude Mertens discovered, working with seniors can sometimes be frustrating and difficult. Like most people, they sometimes change their minds or forget their commitments.

Here are some additional resources and recommendations about getting older from our catalog:

Getting Real About Getting Older: Conversations About Aging Better by Linda K. Stroh, PhD and Karen K. Brees, PhD
Full of advice and stories from a wide variety of older people, this book examines love, loss, and changing identities, and will help you take control of your concerns about aging and experience wisdom and joy as an older adult.

The Real Truth About Aging: A Survival Guide for Older Adults and Caregivers by Neil Shulman, MD
As life expectancy continues to increase, millions of seniors are living well into their eighties and nineties. With the aging of the baby boomers, the population of senior citizens will swell dramatically in the coming decades. These statistics will inevitably draw more attention to the aging process. What should middle-aged people expect as they grow older? What should caregivers of the elderly know about normal aging? How can we all stay healthy despite the limitations of age? In this authoritative, user-friendly guide, three experts in geriatric medicine provide the latest evidence on healthy aging, an understanding of the modern and often confusing health care system, and information about the medical issues affecting frail older adults.

Enlightened Aging: Building Resilience for a Long, Active Life by Eric B. Larson, MD and Joan DeClaire
Offers practical advice for growing old with resilience and foresight, examining the scientific evidence behind new perspectives on aging. Also offer ideas for building better communities for our aging population.

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