The Penelope Project
The Penelope Project uses the story of Penelope from Homer’s Odyssey to engage an entire long term care community in the creative process. Its goal was to improve the quality of life of people who live, work, and visit in a long term care setting through creative engagement. Discussion groups, movement exercises, visual art, stories, and music were at the heart of this multi-year project that culminated in 2011 in the performance, FINDING PENELOPE, a professionally produced play written by Ann Basting, inside the care facility. The Project has four stages: Research and Development; Student-facilitated discussions; Performance and Educational Tool Development. The collaborative team includes: University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Center on Age & Community and the Dept. of Theatre; Luther Manor Health Center; and Sojourn Theatre. The Penelope Project aimed to build community by bringing enduring, meaningful, and challenging “activities” that involve creativity and learning to all those who live, work, and visit a long term care facility. Extensive evaluation of the project revealed (among other things) that the process of collaborative co-creation has changed the way programming is offered throughout the care facility. Significant documentation will result in digital educational resources to build capacity of students, artists, and long term care providers to improve the quality of life of older adults, particularly those with dementia. These will include: • 30-minute documentary for public broadcast and festival circuit • online educational modules • up to 12 short video pieces to be integrated into modules • a social media strategy to link/partner for maximum exposure • a summer institute offered by the three collaborative partners (Sojourn, Luther Manor and UWM). • embedding the three-semester model into the BA curriculum in Theatre and Graduate certificate in applied gerontology.