Art of Aging Report

Chuckanut Health Foundation Investing today for a healthier tomorrow.

# Final Grant Report Palliative Care Institute – C2020-40 The Art of Aging project

# Grant proposal objectives Please briefly describe the goals of the project, and the degree to which those goals were met: This project was conceived to support the “cultural shift’ initiative in the Aging Well Whatcom Blueprint. The original grant application proposed combining 20 portrait paintings of older adults with audio recordings to illustrate a cross-section of unique individuals reflecting the diverse experiences of aging in Whatcom County.

We intended to use Zoom to conduct interviews with participants, asking a group of questions intended to surface their ideas about what they would like others to know about what it means to be old (in their culture, in their family, in their community). We also proposed to ask questions to explore what misunderstandings or misconceptions they believe others have about aging.

Each recorded interview would be edited into a three to five minute reflection to capture the key ideas or insights.

# End Product: We completed all 20 interviews (18 individuals and 1 couple) and produced 20 completed portraits on 19 birch panels, 20 companion narratives in the participants’ own voices with 18 five to seven minute audio portraits of individuals and one twelve minute audio portrait of the couple.

We were able to complete all 20 interviews and portraits in the 2021 calendar year, shared those portrait/interview pairs on a website, and mounted a live showing at the Bellingham Senior Center in December 2021, with other live shows planned for 2022.

# Program/operations What went wrong? What went right? What came as a surprise?

The project was completed without any major hitches. A couple of elements that supported this work: 1. We found significant support from others working with elders to help us find participants outside of our own networks. By the end of the project, we had included participants from across the county and from a range of backgrounds and living situations. (We sought participants from the un-housed community but were unable to find any who were willing to share their stories in this format.) 2. Although at first we thought that using Zoom was a compromise imposed by COVID, we found that we were able to create a welcoming and friendly environment that encouraged the participants to share their stories openly. 3. All three of us participated in each interview, and we discovered that the questions we asked were amplified by our own different perspectives. 4. Tessa Whitlock was a consistent and able support throughout the project, helping to develop the website, mount the completed interview/portrait pairs and support the logistical details for the in-person showing.

A couple of surprises: 1. Originally, we planned to ask each participant the same series of questions. We quickly learned that the interviews unfolded more organically if we used only one prompting question to start the interview and then let the participants’ stories guide where the interview should go. The prompting question was: “Is there a book, film, television program, song, etc which you think captures your own experience of aging?” 2. We were delightfully surprised at how open each participant was to share his or her own experiences of aging.

# Measuring impact Can you offer any data or anecdotal evidence for how your program has made an impact (on your clients, etc.)?

**Selected comments from viewers: ** The website is beautiful, Richard. I just listened to Tommy Gibson and have lots of thoughts...I was particularly struck by how the maturing that goes with aging can be so positive- how he was able to relate to other people in Whatcom county- probably all white- when he returned was so different than his experience growing up. - Renee Stewart

This is fantastic, thank you so much for sharing! - Shoshana Ungerleider, MD. Founder of EndWell

What an incredible idea and resource to highlight the grace, intelligence, strength, and wisdom of our elders. I would love to share this inspiration with my Parky Parkinson support group. I know they would all enjoy these portraits and stories from the Art of Aging. Jerry’s support group I think would also appreciate this link! I will share with others. - Andrea Fenwick, Death Doula

Thank you for sharing this. I have really enjoyed listening to the stories already posted and look forward to more. I have been sharing this widely. Cassandra Sutherland, MPH, Client Services Manager. End of Life Washington

It was nice listening to Mr. Duwa Togahe. Oh, what stories he could tell from his stint in the Sinai Desert and all the other jobs he had. Just life, right? But a life well lived and shared. Although we couldn't see his face (good portrait, though), the emotion in his voice when he spoke about his dear wife, Kathy, came through loud and clear. Terrific job with the audio, Richard! Sarah's portraits are impressive, notably the healthcare workers and George Floyd. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next interview. - Jo Marabella, Mountain Pacific Health, Honolulu, Hawaii.

What a wonderful endeavor---a gift to all. - Trudi James (Chaplain, film producer Speaking of Dying)

Thanks for sending this, it is really great! People who participate will feel very lucky being a part of this. Sarah, what tremendous talent! - Dave Lynch – MD, Founder Family Care Network Thanks so much for sharing this. I took the time to listen to all four of the posted vignettes. A few thoughts came to my mind. First, these persons have led interesting, vital lives. They have experienced some sorrow around their physical again and limitations. I like the attitude of continuing to persevere (“I walk the halls three times a day) as they age. I support a few older neighbors, one of whom has given up. It’s sad on a certain level because if this person chose to, a few adjustments may improve their situation. Given they have expressed a desire to pass on, and a lack of desire to stay with us, I feel like the best I can do is support their comfort. May I share the link you sent in our upcoming newsletter? - Lisa Ann Morrise, Marts, Executive Director, Consumers Advancing Patient Safety

This is a wonderful project! I am going to forward it to a couple of my CCMI colleagues who are working on a frailty project in Canada - helping primary care physicians screen for frailty and help older people prevent or address it. These remind me how much I loved working with elderly people! - Connie Davis, MN, RN, GNP,BC (retired), Development Lead, The Centre for Collaboration, Motivation and Innovation, Canada

**From a participant:** Thank you for creating this project for our community. I am deeply humbled to have my words included and look forward to seeing and hearing all of the participants. This is as good as a big feed! Dan. (First Scout Rowe)

**From the in-person viewing:** We estimate the attendance at the in-person viewing at about 40 people. The informal comments after the presentation were very positive, and about 20 people stayed to participant in a conversation about “cultural shift” led by Lara Welker.

# Shared learning What advice would you give to another group about to attempt a similar project? This project could be adapted to collect stories from other groups. (One person who viewed the site is planning to do a similar project with the elders in his church community.). Finding skilled artists like Richard (audio) and Sarah (portraiture) to implement a new project might be more difficult.

# Stories

If you would like to share any stories, testimonials, and/or photos related to the project, we would be honored to feature you on our website and in our publications. (Please attach to report or email to Photos must be in jpg format.)


In person show opening at the Bellingham Senior Center, December 10, 2021


Audience for the opening presentation, December 10, 2021

Portrait Artist

Sarah Lane, portrait artist for the Project, speaking to Gurpreet Dhillon at the opening.

# Our work with you How can we serve you more efficiently and support you more wholly in the future? Please share any questions, suggestions, and constructive feedback you have for us about how the Chuckanut Health Foundation can become a better partner in this work. We were well supported by CHF throughout the application and implementation of the Art of Aging Project. Additional comments: Thank you for taking the time to share this information with us!