Story CircleOrganization Associated with Program
Story Circle programs of Elders Share the Arts (ESTA) in Brooklyn, New York introduce older adults to the art of storytelling. Through partnerships with senior centers and libraries, these programs explore a significant theme and culminate with a compilation of the group's shared recollections in an anthology. This gives older adults an opportunity to find their stories, develop a voice, hear the stories of the group, and reflect on commonalties and differences. All programs are led by a professional teaching artist.
Story Circle programs meet once a week for eight to twelve weeks or longer (depending on the request of the partner site). Each session is approximately an hour and a half or two hours in length. Participants engage in storytelling through various methods that ultimately center on the writing or transcribing of their experiences. They share their work with their peers in large groups or pairs through activities such as interviews. Story Circle programs end with a final event, generally a reading or performance that takes place at the partner site and is attended by participants’ families and friends and includes the publishing of their stories in anthology form.
Community-based arts programs run by professional artists can have powerful effects on older adults. Participation in these programs can lead to an overall improvement in their quality of life, including health promotion, disease prevention, increased independence, and a reduction in the need for long-term care. ESTA’s programs support life-long learning opportunities in the arts that help to cultivate and sustain a better quality of life for the participants. They are based on a unique combination of art, reminiscence, and oral history that transforms memories and life experience into a variety of artworks. ESTA provides a broad range of arts programming for people 55 and older.
In 2001, ESTA was selected as one of four participating sites nationwide in the groundbreaking research study, “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” conducted by Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Institute on Health, Humanities, and Aging at George Washington University. This was the first longitudinal study of its kind, and its findings point to the direct impact of creative engagement on overall physical, mental, and emotional health. Furthermore, Cohen concluded that creativity in older adults can flourish with greater depth and richness given the vast knowledge and experiences that inform their creative efforts. This belief inspired and continues to be reflected in every program at Elders Share the Arts.
Programs are evaluated by staff of ESTA and related partner organizations multiple times throughout their duration through the use of interviews, individual assessments, and attendance numbers. Program outcomes are defined using a document entitled “Indicators of Program Success,” which focuses on four categories: Mastery, Wellness and Quality of Life, Community, and Cultural Awareness. Evaluations are a part of ESTA’s planning process.