Heart & Soul...

“I want my old age to be more than playing bridge,” states Jesse Robson. I commiserate with her. Don’t we all want more than that? Don’t we want to continue with drama and painting, writing and dancing?

Unfortunately our society seems to advance stereotypes of older adults as “items” to be warehoused- locked away in nursing homes or other seniors’ facilities. Robson explains, “I think that our society values disposability over longevity.” Thinking of how most people would rather just buy a shiny new computer than take the time to remodel their old computer, she may be on to something. She continues, “I think that seniors are often seen as ‘yesterday’s news’ – worn out entities that ought to be replaced by newer, up-and-coming models.”

Robson, 24, initiated Heart & Soul Summer Arts Camp. It is a weekly program directed towards older seniors, including those with mobility or psychological impairments. She wants to demonstrate that getting older does not need to mean being closed to new experiences. The day camp will give seniors an opportunity to explore new media such as circus arts and magic tricks, while taking into account any constraints that health issues may pose.

“We are asking people to self-identify any conditions that may impact their ability to participate,” says Robson. “We don’t do this to single anyone out – it gives us a chance to modify our activities and resources to make them as enjoyable and accessible as possible for all participants.”

A day camp for seniors faces issues that might be less prevalent in a children’s day camp. While kids are happy to throw themselves into something new, as we age we often become more self-conscious and are increasingly concerned with being “good.” Heart & Soul will work to provide a space where self-consciousness does not limit participation. With the diversity of people and of activities, Robson assures, “I think that the fact that everyone will at times be a beginner and at other times an expert at will help them to feel comfortable and accepted in the group no matter their physical or artistic abilities.”

In addition to engaging older audiences in the arts for personal well-being and satisfaction, the Heart & Soul day camp will also use art activities to encourage older adults to be physically active. “I think that ‘fun’ has great potential to engage people in habits that will help them maintain their long term health,” says Robson.

That may be why dance is included not only as an event during the day camp but as the focus of the preview night being held the Friday prior to the start of camp. Robson recognizes the value of music that would have been contemporary to the dance habits of her participants, but also includes alternative selections such as African drumming and dance in her sessions. Robson is trained in modifying activities for seniors so she knows how to break dance moves into arms-only components for individuals with balance issues or hip problems. “Being a good teacher is the most important thing,” explains Robson “giving participants different opportunities to understand the instructions – verbally, visually and kinetically, for example – is crucial”. ~ Jen Powley

Heart & Soul Summer Arts Camp will take place on Mondays starting April 16 at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 2096 Windsor Street, Halifax NS. Please contact happilyeveractive@gmail.com or 902-877-6608 for more information.