(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is one of the essays.)
“Sometimes we’re the only person they see all day,” said Johnny, the Meals on Wheels deliverer who graciously let me shadow him on his route, “Can you imagine that?” Johnny is exactly what Meals on Wheels recipients need: a warm, smiling face who remembers them. During their 20- to 30-second exchange at the door, he asks after these older people. He cares.
More than ever before, older Americans are living alone. AARP has rightly called “social isolation” one of the biggest challenges we will face as an aging society. Research tells us isolation is the health-risk equivalent of 15 cigarettes a day. But its effects can be ameliorated much more fully than a pack-a-day habit. We can do something about it.
Imagine this instead: When you receive a meal, you also get an added bit of nourishment — an invitation to creatively interpret your world.
Johnny and his team of drivers at Beulah Brinton Community Center in Milwaukee helped my team of artists design and deliver a bit of extra nourishment through the meal system. During 2012-2014, we delivered 45 thought-provoking, poetically phrased questions that invited people to think of themselves and their worlds a little differently. We asked:
What do you treasure in your home? And why?
What is the most beautiful sound in your home?
What are the sounds of your neighborhood?
What is something you could teach someone?
What is something you would like to learn?
Elders could respond by voicemail or hand deliver the question card back to their meal driver. Over the two years, we created 21 radio segments out of the responses so they could hear and feel part of something bigger. We offered and delivered Artistic Housecalls. The project, called Islands of Milwaukee, culminated in a performance and art installation at City Hall for more than 3,000 people.
Full Article and Source:
Why We Need to Pour Creativity Into Our Care Systems