When Walker Methodist team members facilitate art or dance classes for residents, they hear things like “I’ve never seen something like this…I love it” and “I used to dance when I was younger, so this class is really fun.” Our communities regularly offer music, art, and other enriching programs to residents, but COVID-19 temporarily limited visitors, including instructors, to Walker Methodist communities in March. Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), those activities were cancelled for the safety of residents and team members. Canceling in-person classes, though, doesn’t mean residents can’t have fun doing what they love.
Near the end of a series of grant-sponsored dance classes with Kairos Alive!, Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis canceled the remaining sessions due to COVID-19, including an intergenerational dance hall. But because of a generous offer from the funder, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the grant was extended. Then, teams from Kairos Alive! and Walker Methodist re-imagined art programming in the age of the coronavirus. Thanks to the teams’ collaboration and creativity (as well as Zoom), residents at the Health Center can enjoy virtual dance programs July to August. Residents will be able to see and hear dance instructors on a large screen TV while wearing masks and socially distancing in small groups. Instructors will also be able to see and hear residents, creating a fun, engaging, and interactive environment.
Dance classes aren’t the only way for residents to engage their creativity. In Cambridge, Walker Methodist Levande received a grant through the East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) for a watercolor class starting in June. Because of restrictions, the class was postponed while team members and our art partner, COMPAS, developed a new plan. Since COMPAS had already begun looking into virtual programs and Zoom classes, the next step was to implement technology at Levande. At the same time the team was looking for necessary equipment, Aroha Philanthropies (a funder that has supported art programs at Highview Hills in Lakeville) reached out with an offer. They wanted to learn how they could help during this new challenge. Thanks to their support through a $10,000 grant, the Foundation was able to purchase 20 iPads to use for virtual art programs at our communities.
The first innovative virtual art class was Thursday, July 9. Before the class, teaching artist Anne McFaul-Reid designed, assembled, and delivered watercolor art supply kits for each art student at Levande. Then, life enrichment team members helped residents log into Zoom to join the group. Memory care residents were able to follow a pre-recorded lesson in a one-on-one setting. (Learning new things is important for seniors, especially those with memory loss.) At the end of the nine-week series, all participants will have beautiful watercolor artwork to display. “I’m going to frame my art,” said a resident named Ron. “It speaks to me. Every time I look at it, I see something new.”
Virtual programs, real lives
Walker Methodist plans to continue enriching the lives of residents through virtual art programming as long as the pandemic continues. The Walker Methodist Foundation recently applied for and received two more grants to continue these activities: Levande received another $15,000 grant from ECRAC to start four more art residencies during the next year, and Aroha Philanthropies is providing $3,000 for a pilot program to develop of virtual art programming. These programs will occur at several Walker Methodist communities: Westwood Ridge (West St. Paul), Highview Hills (Lakeville), Walker Methodist Place (Minneapolis), Plaza (Anoka), and Care Suites (Edina). When resident Thelma heard about these classes, she said, “This is wonderful, and I just can’t believe it’s all free.”
As Walker Methodist strives to continue to enhance the lives of older adults through a culture of care, respect, and service, we are grateful for funders, partners, team members, residents, volunteers, and more. Thanks to their support, we are able to continue providing enriching programs that help residents be engaged and active—even if it might look a bit different than before.
The Walker Methodist Foundation raises funds to provide special programming for Walker Methodist residents, allowing them to engage in activities beyond what is provided through a community’s life enrichment budget. Art programs bringing outside teaching artists into communities can be costly, but the benefits older adults receive by engaging in arts far outweighs that cost. The Walker Methodist Foundation team regularly writes grants to arts organization, allowing residents in our communities access to these amazing programs.