‘Smart and creative’ art program on the horizon for local seniors

“The idea is to bring the art to a range of different seniors” through HeARTS, a pilot project set to begin later this summer, officials say

The Orillia & District Arts Council (ODAC) has plans underway to launch a new program to help local seniors through social and wellness activities.

The council has received funding from the New Horizons for Seniors Program for a pilot program called HeARTS (Helping Elders with ARTS). It should start in late August or early September.

“The idea is to bring the art to a range of different seniors,” said ODAC member Miriam Goldberger. “We want to deliver smart, creative programming that isn’t childish and speaks to the hearts and minds of many people who happen to be older.”

The program is the brainchild of Christine Hager, Secretary of the ODAC Board of Directors.

“We decided to apply for the funding because we had already done programs for women last year and we had secured funding for vulnerable women,” she said. “It seems like a perfect extension of that because older people are another vulnerable population.”

Art is a form of expression that allows people to express their feelings in a productive way, says Hager. One of the main objectives of the program is to give seniors the opportunity to reflect on themselves.

“They can look back on their personal story,” said Sukhi Kaur, artistic animator for HeARTS. “They can reflect on things that make them feel good and express them in a new way.”

The program gives older people the chance to own their past history through different artistic styles, she explained.

“We are not therapists,” Hager said. “We use art and movement in a way that makes people feel good.”

Goldberger is also the founder and director of What Dance Can Do; she will get involved in the program by incorporating dance.

“Dancing is one of the main components of the program,” Goldberger said. “Each session will include some movement time.”

The dance portion of the program will be inclusive for people with mobility issues.

“I’ve worked closely with a lot of mobility-impaired populations, which are often older people,” Goldberger said. “You can sit, you can stand, you can be in a wheelchair.”

Seniors will see many guest performers during the program, some of whom will be other seniors.

“People will be able to see and experience the success and artistry provided by someone who is as old or older than them,” Goldberger said.

On Tuesday evening, ODAC members met with members of Age Friendly Orillia, St. James’s Church, Victoria House and members of the community to get their feedback on the planned program.

“When we start talking to other people, we become more inclusive with others,” Hager said. “These are people who have experience with the population we are trying to serve,” Kaur added.

The current goal of the program is 25 weeks with two sessions per week. Each session will last two to three hours and will take place at St. James’s Anglican Church.

To enroll in the free program, seniors can call ODAC at 705-309-3351 or email [email protected] Registration for the pilot program will be limited.

Kayleen C. Rice