Age and Creation

A practice journal of creative experience and aging

Introducing Seniors Art Link

The Seniors Art Link logo, showing a brush, scissors, and pencil as white icons on a blue background with the project title below

Maggie, Kathy, and Suad — direct[message Community Consultants team — October 2023

As community consultants of the direct[message] project we spent a lot of time over the years explaining to older adults like ourselves what the project was about. People were pretty quick to get excited about the idea, once they got past the name. ([D]irect [M]essage had been a community arts project at Centre[3] years earlier, to engage seniors to help preserve personal memories and the cultural history of Hamilton’s beloved Barton Street: a message delivered directly from those that built the cultural history to the street’s current residents. The much larger direct[message] project was seen by Centre[3] as an expansion of that work, but that sometimes felt lost in translation.)

We also gathered a lot of feedback, and heard things like:

“Things have to be simple, clear, easy to follow”

and:

“If you’re telling me we’re going to do X, make sure by the end of it I have an X!”

In the original proposal to the funder we set out to “create interactive moments and experiences for older adults to receive information and ask questions or express likes or dislikes about the art they see or experience” and “pilot and evaluate multiple iterations of a prototype” that would allow older adults to do this. We wanted exactly what that would look like to be co-created with older adults in the community.

(And then, of course, the pandemic happened.)

After a number of iterations over the years with pilots and evaluations that spanned software development, hardware development, kits, facilitator training, professional development resources, artist talks, live online events, in-person weekly drop-ins, podcasts, paints, photographic negatives, markers and a lot of glue, we started to recognize a real need that we could try to address: being a place to find what connects older adults to the arts.

That may be:

  • a site where older adults could find opportunities for artistic engagement that suit them, locally and available online,
  • sharing in alternate formats (e.g., social media posts, digital vs. print, empowering existing older adult connectors within community, podcasts, videos) to suit different ways people like to learn,
  • having a place to learn promising practices and find actual, useful resources when you’re providing programming to older adults and you want it to be enjoyable and engaging, or
  • having a place to share what you’ve discovered with other people doing the same work.

In an attempt to be simple, clear, and easy to follow, we chose the name Seniors Art Link. It’s for older adults — using language they use to describe themselves; it’s about arts and crafts, creation and expression; and it means to link users to opportunities and to other artists, not passive entertainment or isolated skill-development.

To launch Seniors Art Link and its event and resource databases we’ve loaded up all the resources from the project that spawned it that we can share under a Creative Commons license. This means every resource you find is 100% free to use or adapt into something that works for your community.

We hope that you will find something of value in Seniors Art Link, and also that as you discover resources and practices that can benefit artists, artist-run centres, senior-serving organizations and older adults, that you’ll consider contributing them to the collection.

Kathy Smith is an artist and instructor. Maggie Perquin is a retired teacher and choir director of the Forest City Singers. Both are from London, Ontario and were community consultants for the direct[message] project. Both were Community Consultants for the direct[message] project.