Leading Age - January/February 2011 - (Page 20)

An Odyssey of Empowerment An ambitious project of participatory art empowers seniors, boosts wellness and sweeps aside old notions about “activities.” b y C o l l e e n K i n de r S ix people sat on the shore of Oconomowoc Lake and gazed across the water. A bus marked Luther Manor waited just behind their wheelchairs. Normally, this bus took seniors on routine outings—to parks, museums, fairs. This trip, however, was spontaneous. There was no script. No one knew what would happen—what would be shared and revealed—when these six elders discussed the story of a Greek heroine while viewing a panorama of water and sky much like the one Penelope beheld during the 20 years she awaited Odysseus. These sorts of imaginative, impromptu activities have astonished the staff at Luther Manor in Wauwatosa, Wis. Last year, when Luther Manor agreed to host and facilitate the Penelope Project, the administration had no idea what a year-long exploration of the myth of Penelope on a seniorliving campus would look like. Finding out meant opening the doors of Luther Manor to a broad coalition of academics and artists; rallying staff from different levels of care around a campus-wide initiative; and finally, handing over “the keys of creativity” to the residents. It was, on many levels, a gigantic leap of trust. “We kind of started the project not knowing whether the residents would engage,” says Kathi Brueggemann, resource manager at Luther Manor, “but they leapt in with both feet.” It all began when Anne Basting, director of the Center on Age & Community at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an associate professor of theatre, recognized that Homer’s Odyssey—and specifically the tale of Penelope, who fends off 108 suitors during her husband’s extended absence—has special resonance with residents of long-term care facilities, whose homes are constantly trafficked with strangers. She also suspected that these residents would have a profound understanding of what it means to wait, wait and wait. And because Penelope struggles to recognize Odysseus when he at last returns home, Basting saw potential for residents with memory loss to bring meaning to bear on this classic text. Beth Meyer-Arnold, director of adult day services at Luther Manor, gladly gave Basting the benefit of the doubt. BastLeadingAge magazine | January/February 2011 Alan Magayne-Roshak UWM theatre students Rohit Rangarajan and Kathryn Otten ask Luther Manor day center participants “What did ‘home’ mean to Penelope? What does ‘home’ mean to you?” as project leader Anne Basting looks on. 20 http://www.luthermanor.org/index.asp http://ageandcommunity.org/ http://ageandcommunity.org/

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Leading Age - January/February 2011

From the Editor
A Process, Not a Destination
Wellness: The Challenge of Measurement
Affordable Wellness
An Odyssey of Empowerment
The Dance of Wellness
Wellness and Leadership Must Go Hand-in-Hand
Releasing Potential for Wellness in Mind, Body and Spirit
Strategies for Successful Onboarding: Derailment or Success?
Ideas & Innovations
Index of Advertisers
Organizing Effective Resident Advocacy

Leading Age - January/February 2011