Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category

A detail of a mat

It has been quite a year for many engaged humans in the long term care communities of Chicago thanks to Ruth Wertler, Life Enrichment Coordinator, and her residents of Bethesda Home and Retirement and many others who have been inspired to make.  You can check out another article of many about this special community and others inspired to change the culture of elder communities.

One year ago was the launch of the Chicago area New Life for Old Bags (NLOB).  As of January 4th there were 137 mats completed (with approximately 95,900 grocery type bags rescued from going to landfills) and distributed through area soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

So many gatherings, counted hrs and uncounted hours of purposeful engagement of elders in a long term care community.  Purposeful.  Not a “sense of purpose” but purposeful as Ruth reminded many of us during a presentation of the NLOB project to those of us also working in long term care.

The project is wonderful and mindful on so many levels that it is difficult to share all of the human connections this project embraces.  Corporations, churches, schools, staff, families, restaurant of an art center, and neighbors all have been educated about the project and have assisted in some way and so many ways over the last year.

Some statistics were shared at each table (and during each presentation) that Ruth has conducted:

Statistics of Homelessness in Chicago in 2009/2010

Here is  a quick slide show of some of the images taken today (think this X many hands, many people many locations and you will have a small grasp of this herculean project):

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The benefits to this project are truly endless but as an artist and a recreation therapist I can’t help but share a few:  social engagement, physical benefits, earth benefits, creation of a broad sense of community and our place in it, anticipation and cognitive stimulation, and just plain old FUN!!!  One cannot also help but mention what the excessive use of plastic does for our environment so the benefits for our environment are huge also.

A recent client of Cornerstone Community Outreach was observed with his mat under his arm while waiting in line for healthy food.  This is the quote from the email from the staff member at Cornerstone “Ruth, last Friday when I was serving lunch at Cornerstone, a guy came in line with one of the “bag mats” rolled up under his arm. I asked him about it and he smiled so wide as he said that it was fine and he was glad to have it. It is so humbling to think that this man who has to carry all his belongings with him considers that mat something of such value that he is willing to carry it everywhere he goes. Tell your NLFOB crew that what they do does make a difference. Thank you!”

Ruth honored many participants today at her community and I just had to share some images and videos of the event.  Several people in attendance couldn’t even take a break and kick back, they had to keep their hands busy making more plarn, mats, and friends.  Special thanks for First Slice Pie Cafe for the wonderful treats served for everyone.  A partner in caring for people less fortunate too.

Here are some of those in attendance working…


and here the crocheting…

It is an honor to know Ruth Werstler and I look forward to Ruth and many others leading the way to a purposeful life no matter one’s age.

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This entry is dedicated to the family of Ayrie Mekai Jones Murphy.  A dear little four year old that put up an amazing fight in this world.  Love pours from many to your family like water should for all.

Potable Realized

I visited the site on Monday September 28th and put up two laminated posters about Potable.  When my mother and I arrived at 3:00p on Tuesday two people were waiting for us along with my sister in law Laurie Schwalbe, my niece Sheri Paape and her daughter Addison.

The couple waiting for us said “We want to know what this is about!”  The man said he just wanted a cup but the the woman he was with started in with many questions.  “Where are you from?”  “Why are you doing this?”  “What do you want with this neighborhood?  Is Channel Four coming?”  Before I could answer, properly set up, and get my bearings, she had another question.  Whew!  It really got better from then on.  After the discussion felt a little less heated, and my wonderful and calm mother shared supportive words about the project, I excused myself to unload the 100 cups, table, table cloth, basket of lovely MacIntosh Apples from Witte’s Farm stand (a destination whenever I go home during the growing season) and more with my niece.

It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin with the colors just turning, the sun shining, with the air still.  BayView WI, is the near southern neighborhood of Milwaukee.  It is home to a vibrant residential, retail, a stunning temporary public art project, and restaurant community.  It is also home to the last public water well pictured here:

Pryor Avenue Iron Well

I became aware of the well prior to my residency with Colorado Art Ranch via Milwaukee’s venerable paper the Shepherd Express. Their article by Sarah Biondich spawned a curiosity and level of interest I couldn’t shake through the rest of Spring, during the residency, and thereafter into Summer.  Then I heard from Wendy Pabich, PhD and Water Deva.  I met Wendy during the Colorado Art Ranch experience.  She is a well respected hydrologist and artist and is sought after to speak and assist with water solutions around the world.  She said she would be speaking in Milwaukee at the Tapping in to Solutions in September and wondered if we could get together…. then the piece that I had turning in my head had to be realized… during the conference!

Fast forward to Tuesday September 28, after the completion of 100 + terra cotta cups, a bit of glaze testing, (thanks Jiyeon Yim – my personal glaze consultant!), two Cone 04 firings , a special event permit with the city of Milwaukee, coordination with four generations of women, and voila, an art gesture.  Here is the flyer for the event:

Potable Invite/Flyer

Several people came by because they had seen the laminated flyer I posted on Monday on site.  Several others had stopped by because they saw something was happening that was out of the ordinary.  Most, however, came to the well because they always do, with their variety of containers, glass and plastic, recycled and reused, to fill their vessels at the well that they don’t take for granted.

Pictures of family, a dear  friend, and people who have come to fill containers from the well water are pictured below:

Two cars unloading containers to fill up with well water on the day prior to Potable.

Prepared to fill up.

Filling up

Eduardo, a “Holistic Healer” demonstrates how he fills his containers.  Eduardo sends people to this well for their water.  He said those that heed his advice have appreciated the water in their path to health.

Set up and ready to go.

Three generations drinking

A wonderful guy and one of the first Potable participants. We shared an extra cup for a nephew who is hospitalized with depression. He said "I will fill it with this water."

Addison loved the colors and the feel of the cups. So sweet.

Dear friend Bonnie Lowell came too = delightful!

Urban dogs benefit too. "Denali" is pictured here.

Cup holders getting used!

This gentleman expressed thanks when he received his cup when he came by to fill his refillable container.

A fun group of "walkers" were surprised and thankful for the cups. They walk in the neighborhood about 5 X a week.

Eduardo and I toasting. A dear guy that loved the cups and the sentiment.

A fun family that visits a new neighborhood each time they walk. Very excited about receiving their own cups.

Satellite Crepes - a delightful couple coming by for water. Check them out online!

Martin, the last Potable participant of the day.

End of Day - 50+ cups given away for Potable

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I spent some time at Columbine Manor, a long term care community here in Salida, CO.  As part of the residency we are asked to do a “give back” event to the community.  I chose the only LTC community for my give back day as they are often the forgotten members of our greater community.  The week of Mother’s Day is always National Nursing Home Week and May is always Older Adult Month.

What we did:

All About Water:  I visited with the Volunteer Director upon my arrival here and set up a date for May.  She shared with me their lump of air dry clay that needed to be reconstituted which I reworked for our use.  The amazing activity staff gathered up about 20 or so interested individuals.  We had introductions; I shared my work from my laptop (as a projector meant to be lent was broken/unavailable) and why I was here in Salida; I talked about Colorado Art Ranch and the theme of water for this residency.  I brought in the tools I was working with:  my large mold, shovel, buckets, and my dirty gloves.   I shared some passages and imagery from some resources about water.  I had everyone close their eyes and I conducted a simple guided imagery exercise while having them visualize a special place in their life that had water.  I asked them to think about whom they were with.  What they smelled, heard, tasted, and touched in addition to their surroundings.  I asked the participants to breath deeply throughout and then asked them to gently open their eyes.  Some individuals shared their experience and thoughts about water, their memories, the environment, and life in Colorado with water.  One person shared her experience as a young girl, going to a healing pool in western Washington where her asthma was cured.  Another person shared his memories of swimming in the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center and “making a lot of bubbles” he said with a smile.  We shared a cool glass of water.

With assistance we passed out clay slabs to make “postcards” of their favorite place that included water.   Another participant made her postcard with lots of waves, moving her arm around as if conducting the clay into place.  A person with memory challenges and an artistic background (she made many fashion sketches for clothing and patterns) made hers a literal postcard and wrote a simple message to her son seated next to her.  They were both pleased to be embarking on a project together and to utilize creative skills from a lifetime.

I salute the professionals and para professionals who work in long term care every day.  As a Certified Recreation Therapist Specialist and consultant in long term care (and 30 yrs of experience in long term care communities) I challenge all of us to discover ways of integrating elders into our lives creatively and often.  If you need some names and numbers in the Chicago (or Salida) area, I would be obliged.

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