Tidewater Arts Outreach artists work with a variety of clients, in a variety of settings and with lots of great creative tools, performances and programs. By a fair margin, the largest demographic we serve are seniors who are in dependent care day and long-term residential programs. The residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities is a primary group for TAO, for a number of reasons:
· Accessibility – We can schedule programs in the day-times, evenings and weekends, all over Hampton Roads, in facilities, hospitals, shelters and other congregate care settings.
· Need – People in these facilities are often are under-served in quality of life type programs such as the arts can afford. Mental stimulation and emotional support are so important for this group, and staff should not have to be the sole providers.
· Artists – there is a great deal of personal reward for artists who are able to connect meaningfully with participants. Facility staff appreciates meeting new artists through TAO.
· Variety – The type of arts programs that seniors can participate in include poetry, songwriting, singing, dancing, playing instruments, painting, sculpting (and more). TAO actively helps artists refine their arts offering to meet needs in long-term care.
SO… we have a waiting list of places requesting programs, and a waiting list of artists wanting to serve. We know the need is great, the artists are ready, and we are working just as hard as we can to create amazing programs designed to inspire and delight. And it is happening – dozens of times each month. The survey reports we get back are fantastic – over the top ‘excellent’ ratings – but where is the funding? What is the real value of TAO and its programs to long-term care administrators and the corporations they report to?
The programs are expensive to produce – approximately $400 apiece. This may seem high, but when you consider how much it costs to raise money, rent an office, and hire, train and pay the staff that directly support the work; it all adds up and it all factors into program cost. What portion of this is realistic for the facilities to pay? What are the competing priorities for discretionary income in long-term care? We need to answer these questions if we are to remain successful.
TAO is looking for marketing professionals to help us assess the market and create a strategy for raising awareness and obtaining support. It’s becoming increasingly important.
We’re considering reducing the number of programs we produce, so we can afford to adequately support everyone. That is a sad, but true, outcome of our current financial situation. Thank goodness culture change is coming to long-term care facilities. We see the arts, with all their opportunities for self-expression, self-determination, identity, communication, socialization and normalization as being a key component for the culture change movement – for staff and residents alike.
My fellow baby boomers, it’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, see the writing on the wall and fix our own future, while we have a fighting chance. The arts present a way for many of us to interact positively with those in long term care. In the process, we are supporting the staff who have such tough jobs and who work so hard. We are bearing witness. We are sharing joy and helping people reclaim and tell their stories. We’re helping artists get the means to share their special gifts, with folks who sorely need access to creativity and the benefits of creative-self expression. It is important work. The people we serve are important, too. They had full lives, they contributed to society, held important jobs, raised terrific kids, and on and on. It’s time we help each other make our very oldest society members a part of our community again. We can fix this. Please share your ideas and comments – and thank you for your support.