CASE STUDY: Intergenerational & Interdisciplinary

Seniors Come Out Swinging participant working on set design, part of this multi-disciplinary workshop.
Seniors Come Out Swinging participant working on set design, one component of this multi-disciplinary workshop. Photo courtesy WLS.

Based on their interests, participants including older adults and high school students were able to choose to attend either a dance or a stage design workshop.

Meeting weekly, the groups developed a dance ensemble for a public performance, complete with choreography, costuming, a stage backdrop, and props. Two professional dance teachers instructed the dancing groups in the styles of swing and fox trot, while a visual arts instructor led the stage design group in the planning and creation of a background mural and stage decorations.

After ten weeks, the participants publicly shared what they had learned and created with over three hundred attendees. The public performance displayed the older adults’ newly acquired dance skills, as they performed live on stage, surrounded by the backdrop and props designed by the visual arts participants.

The performers were musically accompanied by the Virgil Scott Swing Orchestra, who were hired using library funds from an existing music program. This creative aging program also included an inter-generational aspect, as students from the local high school joined the older participants in dance and performance.

FORMAT
A multi-arts program comprised of a performing arts workshop and visual arts workshop. Two dance workshops and one stage design workshop were held every week, for 1 hour, for 10 weeks. These workshops were followed by a culminating event.

DATES
January  – February 2009

SIZE
37

SYSTEM
Westchester Library System

FUNDING
Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation; A local, private foundation with an interest in creating age friendly neighborhoods. Through a competitive application process, the Grinton I. Will Library was selected to receive funding.

PARTNERSHIPS
Yonkers Middle High School

ABOUT THE COMMUNITY
Located in a suburban city, the Grinton I. Will Library serves a large older adult community, which makes up approximately 26% of the total population. At the time of the workshop, the oldest participant was 95 years old.

CHALLENGES
Twice as many people registered for the dancing workshop than anticipated. Due to popularity, the dancing program was split into two groups of participants, instructed by separate teaching artists.

OUTCOMES
Seniors Come Out Swinging was an example of a multi-disciplinary arts program, which is appealing and accessible to a large audience of participants. Due to its dual nature, it gave participants with varying interests and abilities to engage in a creative aging program. The library manager noted that almost everyone who participated continued their patronage to the library, and continue to ask for future programming.

This pilot program was also an example of a library’s combined participation and efforts leading to a successful program, such as utilizing existing funding to hire the musical accompaniment.

This new project recognizes that the later years in life can be a time of tremendous growth and creativity. Creative Aging in Our Communities offers older adults the opportunity to express themselves in new ways artistically, using the library as their studio.

— Siobhan Reardon, Former Director, Westchester Library System