Our Story

 Linda Davis and Helen Kivnick met at the annual meeting of the America Society on Aging in March of 2013.  A working collaboration was almost immediately established based on  their complementary beliefs  in the importance of creative activity in supporting meaningful daily lives for elders.  As the Assistant Vice President of  an affordable Senior housing management company, Davis brought an interest in integrating arts and other creative activities into the 90 service coordinated HUD Section 202 affordable senior housing communities located in 22 states for which she was responsible. Kivnick is the humanities and Arts Editor for The Gerontologist, Professor of Social Work, a clinical psychologist, and a long-time scholar in positive aging and healthy life-cycle development.  Kivnick brought an interest in integrating participatory arts activities into our broader understanding of overall elder well-being and also in translating Erik Erikson's seminal theory of life-cycle development into direct service in gerontology.

Collaboratively, Kivnick and Davis developed the principles that have guided the Vital Involvement in Service Coordinationtm Project and the Art, Wellness and Vital Involvement in Aging™ Project

During the Past 5 Years:

We have provided training in the Vital Involvement in Service Coordination model to 70 service coordinators in HUD 202 affordable senior housing. The scope of the work extends to 22 states and has the potential to improve more than 5,000 low-income elders to be engaged and continue to live meaningful lives based on their skills, interests, hobbies and dreams. 


 Support, design and execution of a quasi-experiment to quantify the inferred-casual impact of the Art, Wellness and Vital Involvement in Aging™ (AWVIA) model on very low-income older adults 


 

We are a collaborating partner in a grant awarded by the National Endowment of the Arts. The purpose of the grant is  to support a national study examining the physical, cognitive, social and emotional effects of the Art, Wellness and Vital Involvement in Aging ™(AWVIA) program on engaged low-income, older adults living in subsidized housing. Songwriting Works™ was invited to provide the Art (music engagement)  segment of the AWVIA model. The project title is "To support Impact Assessment of Professionally Conducted Music Engagement Programs and Vital Involvement Promotion  with Low-income Elders in Subsidized Housing Communities."

We hope to get a sense of the impact AWVIA has on the participants of the study and potential for future participants in AWVIA.

Examples of Vital Invovlement Stories

Sewing Dog Costumes

A new resident of an affordable senior community, Ms. B, became increasingly isolated. She talked with the Service Coordinator about her loneliness and difficulty meeting others in the community. The Service Coordinator helped her to explore her strengths and interests. Ms. B stated that she has a small dog and she enjoyed making costumes for each season for her dog but her sewing machine was one of the things she gave away as she was downsizing to move into the smaller living space in the apartment. The Service Coordinator told Ms. B that there were sewing machines in the craft room within the apartment complex and Ms. B was welcome to use them. She began going to the 'sewing' room several days per week. When she dressed her dog in one of the costumes and had him out for a walk, one of the other residents commented on the costume and remarked that she would like to make one for her dog. Ms. B invited her to join her in the  'sewing' room and said she would teach her how. As other residents saw the costumes, they joined them in their weekly sewing sessions and one woman even donated a pile of material which she was no longer using. Ms. B no longer feels isolated and she feels empowered to greet new people and invite them to their group whether they want to sew or just want to join them for the socialization.

Poetry

  

The Service Coordinator has been working with Mr. H for over a year now.  He is frail and worries about his wife passing before him.  He doesn't think he will be able to take care of daily living on his own.  When meeting with him, they have spoken together about strength and being able to handle anything if he has the mindset to do it.  The service coordinator suggested that as a way of coping, Mr. H put his feelings down in a journal.  He loves to write poetry, so he agreed that he would start writing poems again.  

The Service Coordinator published a couple of his poems in the [in-house] newsletter, and he has recited a few at in-house gatherings.  Since then, Mr. H’s confidence has steadily improved and he now has taken on a few chores at home. He even went to a poetry reading contest at the local university.  Not only did he get a third place finish, but they wrote a story about him in the local newspaper.  He was empowered to get his feelings out on paper (which has helped ameliorate his feelings of hopelessness). He has also been rewarded with accolades for his poetry.

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For more stories and to learn how you can promote Vital Involvement Practice and Art, Wellness and Vital Involvement programming in your own setting.