Much like libraries, art brings people together. But for many older adults, mobility issues can present a challenge to engaging with art, supportive services – or each other.
The Seattle Public Library’s Creative Chats in Community program, supported in part by Foundation donors, aims to provide an accessible, welcoming space to gather, work on art projects, and receive important social and health information. Since March, the monthly program at Neighborhood House’s High Point location has helped strengthen connections for community members.
“It’s really exciting to see people engaging again with one another, particularly older adults and people across generations,” said Rachel Rene Araucto, a teaching artist with SilverKite Community Arts. Along with Seniors Creating Art, SilverKite facilitates art activities for program attendees who can also choose to interact with a rotating list of service providers.
This month, participants had the option to work on beaded bracelets while blood pressure checks, glucose monitoring, and other health screenings took place. Materials on health and wellness information were available in multiple languages, and interpreters for speakers of Somali, Oromo, and Vietnamese were in attendance.
The program was developed through community listening that identified better connections to services – and a compelling reason to attend – as a priority, said Emily Billow, Older Adults Program Manager for the library.
“Elders in High Point are geographically isolated from most senior services and there aren’t many culturally appropriate senior services nearby,” Billow said. “We know that there is a need for services like signing folks up for programs, helping assist elders with their devices, and providing health screenings and vaccines. This program ties those services and opportunities with a creative engagement like art in a drop-in setting in their preferred language.”
The library worked with community partners to bring the program together. Seattle Housing Authority community builders and residents work on feedback. The City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods helps identify community members to work as interpreters. Neighborhood House provides a convenient and trusted location, which Billow said was essential.
“It’s important to meet folks where they are already gathering,” she said. “Older adults have barriers to accessing services. We knew elders were already gathering at this location and are comfortable in this location.”
Creative Chats in Community is still in its pilot phase and continues to evolve based on community input. Billow said that there are many opportunities to expand its impact, including with more hours or dates and with increased connections to services such as exercise classes or food providers.
For now, having a monthly activity to draw people together is a benefit for the community, said Sahra Samatar, a Somali interpreter attending the program and working on her own beaded art. “The people are the best part,” she said. “And the fun!”
The next Creative Chats in Community program will take place on Tuesday, October 10 from 1 to 2 pm at Neighborhood House High Point, 6400 Sylvan Way SW. Learn more here.