Critical Programmatic Success Factors of Select Arts Programs for Older Adults
Cada, Suzanne M.
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The purpose of this study is to identify the pivotal factors contributing to programmatic success of arts programs for people, age sixty-five and older, in the United States. This study examines select programs within five arts disciplines: Elders Share the Arts (theatre), Museum One (visual art), Liz Lerman Dance Exchange (dance), New Horizons Music (music), and Arts for the Aging (writing/literature). The selected programs serve a heterogeneous population of older adults and exist independently of larger, non-arts institutions, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or senior care facilities. Success factors were determined by three methods, including: (1) direct questioning of program staff members about what they believed made their programs successful, (2) observations of program delivery to determine success factors in action, and (3) research and review of literature. The conclusions of the aforementioned methods result in six universal factors among successful programming within arts programs. These common factors are:
- Reminiscence regularly occurs among individual participants. Older adults who have the opportunity to reflect, without inhibition, on events from their past tend to experience more self-satisfaction, a reinforcement of their identity, and a ready connection with other adults.
- Programs establish and maintain a safe, non-threatening environment. Allocating a small amount of time for everyone to acclimate to the new environment allows older adults to feel more at ease, encourages their participation, and increases their enjoyment.
- Teaching artists are personally committed to the context in which they work and exhibit patience when engaging with older adults. Teaching artists find a balance between activities that are aesthetically enjoyable and educationally and socially rewarding.
- Another organization or venue serves as a host for the program. This reciprocal relationship sustains the arts program and increases the vitality of the host organization by providing a wide range of programs.
- The organization's leader is enthusiastic and mindful of both challenges and opportunities in the field. A single person in a highly-placed administrative position is identified as an essential driving force behind successful programs.
- Teaching artists demonstrate loyalty by committing several years to the programs. The long-term retention of all teaching artists ensures consistent, reliable, and quality programs.
- Masters Theses