Linda Taylor is a strong advocate for seniors. As a professional financial planner and advisor, she often deals with caregivers, usually sons and daughters, who are facing huge emotional challenges associated with parents in a declining state of physical and mental health. The elders, meanwhile, often feel isolated, frightened, and alone. Having cared for her own parents in their later years, Linda understands these challenges firsthand. Her professional and personal experiences inspired Linda to found the Creative Care Association (CCA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of third-age adults (baby boomers and retirees).
Since its inception in 2015, CCA, housed at One Senior Place in Altamonte Springs, has quickly grown under Linda’s leadership as board chair, bringing a fresh perspective on aging with four key initiatives:
Caregiver R & R
This outreach program for caregivers (usually children of third-agers), includes gift bags filled with mini-spa items.
“It is our way at One Senior Place to let people know we understand what they’re going through and to remind them to take care of themselves,” says Linda. “When we saw how much people loved and responded to this small token of recognition, we asked volunteers to help assemble more gift bags. The response has been enthusiastic with hundreds of gift bags being made each year. This is the program that got CCA going.”
This program began as a partnership between the CCA and the Alive Inside Foundation, an intergenerational program that pairs middle-school students with dementia-afflicted elders to experience the powerful effects of music. Students are tasked with creating individualized playlists of music for each elder. After a yearlong pilot program yielded promising results, the CCA team went to work developing its own independent program pairing students from Avalon Middle School with seniors in memory care at the Encore at Avalon Park assisted-living community.
“The response from students and their parents has been overwhelming,” says Linda. “We have 90 to 100 applicants each year for 20 spots.”
Now in its fourth season, Songbird has partnered with the University of Central Florida and the University of California, Davis to study the impact of intergenerational relationships and how music therapy may reduce the need for psychotropic medications for those with memory loss.
In partnership with Compass Research and One Senior Place, the CCA unveiled a new art gallery this year showcasing the artwork and creative expression of third-age individuals. One exhibit, Life in Ink and Blood, featured photography by Lis Roop of seniors who chose to make a permanent statement late in life by getting unique tattoos that tell a personal story.
In late May, the Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making program provided the gallery with creative art expressions from individuals in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Though they may have lost some or all of their ability to communicate with words, the seniors’ artwork is an astonishingly beautiful expression of thoughts, memories, and emotions.
As with music, the art gallery provides an intergenerational opportunity to promote greater empathy and understanding for elders.
Lifetime Learning Initiative
This newest CCA initiative, still in the planning stages, will provide classes on topics of interest serving a multi-generational audience.
“We hope to get art and book study groups here at One Senior Place,” says Linda. “We envision a poetry class and a songwriting class.”
As the demand for new and creative learning opportunities grows, Linda and her team at CCA are actively seeking out strategic board members who can help move this initiative forward.
“One of the reasons we are growing so fast is that we are passionate about what we are doing,” Linda says of CCA’s rapid expansion. “We’re seeing phenomenal results emotionally and psychologically that intergenerational connections have for both young and old. If I look back in my later years and wonder why we did this, I want to be able to say we did it to influence a cultural shift in how our society thinks about and respects aging.”