Ideally located in close proximity to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Eastcastle Place retirement community benefits from the frequent infusion of young people within its doors. “Intergenerational programming and activities are very much the norm here,” said Laura Wengler, director of community lifestyle services. “It’s mutually beneficial. The residents love the energy, enthusiasm, and ideas of the young people, and the young people, in turn, gain so much from the residents’ wisdom and history and sense of humor.”
Molly Hassler is a senior at UWM Peck School of the Arts, majoring in fiber/textile arts and community art. As the student artist in residence (SAIR), Molly generously shares her time as well as her talent with the residents in independent living, assisted living and memory support. “I’m here at least five hours each week, and in fact, might live in an apartment here this spring. Through the SAIR program, I help provide arts and cultural programming. I develop different workshops and projects that I then lead,” Molly said. Most recently, she coordinated a textile marbling project for all levels of care. “The residents loved it. It was really successful in a different way for each group of residents. In independent living, it was a good conversation starter. In assisted living, it was a playful thing to do. For residents in memory care, it was very tactile and got their brains and bodies moving.”
Molly explained, “I like working with older adults. It’s inherent that they have so many stories to tell that are completely outside of the realm people in my age group even think about.”
Laura noted the positive impact that Molly has on residents is impressive. “Her activities bring a spark to residents who can relate creatively. And I notice that residents who have been artists or are passionate about art, light up. It crosses generational lines. There’s a language, a sense of fun that helps lighten the residents’ day-to-day life.” Furthermore, Laura added, “The residents like to hang out and talk after they’ve completed a project. And that gets residents together, who might normally not interact with each other.”
The SAIR program is “great for the development of trust between generations. There’s a positive vibe. The residents see the future through the eyes of a younger person who is just starting out,” said Laura.
“We were one of the first senior communities to start TimeSlips, about 10 years or so ago,” said Laura. TimeSlips, which was founded by Anne Basting, professor of theatre at Peck School of the Arts at UWM, is now an international program. At Eastcastle Place, UWM students, including nursing, communications, and speech and language majors, are trained to facilitate TimeSlips which focuses on residents in memory care, assisted living, and long-term care. The volunteers hand out a picture to each resident, with whom they then sit and talk. Together, they build stories, launched by the students’ open-ended questions, and the residents’ responses. “The resulting stories are based on their creativity or their personal experiences. Some are funny, some are sad, some are racy. Anything goes…they’re adults. The finished story will then be read back and enjoyed,” said Laura.
There are currently 12 UWM students volunteering with TimeSlips at Eastcastle Place. “It’s great to see. For some students, it’s their first experience with a long-term care community and they’re surprised by the residents’ stories. They share experiences and that is a moment in time that’s special,” said Laura.
Eastcastle Place is a Life Plan Community located on Milwaukee’s vibrant East Side. Eastcastle Place offers independent living, promoting an active and engaging lifestyle for seniors. The Health Center at Eastcastle Place offers assisted living, memory support, rehabilitation and skilled nursing services, thus providing complete continuing care for seniors. Eastcastle Place is managed by Life Care Services®. For additional information call 414-219-1398 or visit www.EastcastlePlace.com.