Creative Aging with Educational Theater Company

Center for Aging, Health and Humanities

University playwriting students and older adults living in independent living residences work together to build scripts from real-life stories of the participants. These stories are shared through story swapping and theater exercises based on themes of person-centeredness, resulting in a creation of new works. These works will be performed by the students and older adults. Students then complete an evaluation and testimonial about the project. Results are then used to assess whether the project had an impact on the students' attitudes toward older adults. The theater production is videotaped for use of selected vignettes to teach person-centered care. 

Project Description

The Creative Aging project brings together older and younger adults to read students written work aloud to discuss themes surrounding written work; swap personal stories connected to themes; and write, rehearse and perform new devised work.


"By sharing stories, we were able to perfect the art of listening--something many people are afraid to do. We all became close so quickly because we trusted each other with our stories, which is a reminder of the power of storytelling and how easy it can be to connect with people of any age."

GW Health Profession Student


Project Objectives

  • Increase the quality of intergenerational communication between theatre students and older adults. 
  • Develop meaningful stories shared by older adults that illustrate aspects of a person-centered approach to health care and overall well-being. 
  • Highlight selected short scenes or monologues to teach a person-centered approach to health care professionals. 

Objectives for Younger Adults

  • Develop a greater understanding, respect and appreciation for the wisdom and life experiences of older adults. 
  • Understand and identify a connection between their own life experiences to those of the older adults.
  • Develop an ability to use storytelling and human connection to create well written fictional scenes and monologues based on real-life events.

Objectives for Older Adults

  • Develop a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives from the exploration of past experiences prompted from themes pulled from student-written plays. 
  • Experience a diminished sense of loneliness that can occur in older years by connecting with young adults and peers as they share personal stories, and build a sense of ensemble and community. 
  • Improve mood and long-term health.

Outcomes

  • Shared stories will have built trust and empathy in the group.
  • Performance of the devised pieces together will have allowed for the group to obtain a sense of ensemble and bond that is highlighted by the power of the arts.