Chapel Hill Community Adapts to Pandemic Challenges with Intergenerational Relationships and Technology

A resident works on a project via Zoom.

By Ashley Bills, corporate communications manager, United Church Homes. Reprinted with permission.

The pandemic taught humanity a lot of valuable lessons, but arguably the most important was how it taught Chapel Hill Community — part of United Church Homes — to adapt quickly in providing successful activities and life enrichment to its seniors.

John Wooden, one of the winningest NCAA basketball coaches once said, “If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.” Over the course of the pandemic, the Rev. Erin Proie, chaplain at Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio, and three local volunteers did just that. They created a virtual version of Opening Minds Through Art (OMA), an intergenerational art-making program for older adults with neurocognitive disorders, such as dementia.

OMA, typically done in-person with a facilitator and a class, engages adult students by building friendships between facilitators and residents with dementia through art making. Together, the three OMA facilitators co-founded “Promoting Art and Intergenerational Relationships” (PAIR). They worked with three art therapy students from Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio, to pilot PAIR. The 14-week program was structured for the co-founders to interact with the students and residents at Chapel Hill Community.

Following working independently in break-out Zoom groups, program participants show off their creations.

During the 14 weeks, three Chapel Hill residents per week worked on a total of eight projects. The students led the art projects entirely using the virtual platform, Zoom. Proie set up the iPad and supplies for the residents so when the Zoom meetings began, they were ready to get creative.

“It has been amazing for our residents who have been able to participate, and very meaningful to the students and their college education,” said Proie. “We have been learning and adapting along the way, going from being set up for one-on-one in the rooms during quarantine, to being set up two in a room — with distancing — and the use of break-out rooms on Zoom.”

Chapel Hill and PAIR are nearing the end of this round of programing. Just one project remains. During the final week, they plan to celebrate a successful pilot program by having tasty goodies.

Ashlee Cordell, PAIR co-founder, said the intergenerational relationships between the students and  residents were profoundly successful. “Since meeting with [the residents], I have felt more hopeful and inspired, which were two things I desperately needed.”

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