Thursday, July 27 2023 10:11

In Local Senior Communities, Creative Juices Are Flowing

Written by Edwin Malet

Get inspired!

Residents at Kendal-Crosslands Communities paint a mural

“One morning I stuck my head into the White Horse Village art room to say ‘hello’ and was immediately pulled in by the sculpture teacher, who gave me some clay and told me to sit down and make a sleeping cat. Although I had no experience with clay after the age of seven, I did have many years of looking at a sleeping cat or two. I found I enjoyed working with the texture of clay and fell in love with the ability to create in three dimensions.”

A retired academic, Carol Weiss was a novice then, but she’s since become a prolific creator. Her home today is filled with clay and stone sculptures. So much so, she’s running out of room for her work!

Creativity Unleashed

Carol is one of hundreds of artists, each discovering and pursuing interests in area senior communities. These active seniors are hard at work sculpting, painting, glass-working, woodworking, filmmaking, jewelry-making, knitting and designing fashions. The performing arts — theater, dance, singing, music — also have their devotees. Anything, it seems, to stimulate and grow creativity.

Rube Goldberg machine at Plush Mills

For instance, in the SageLife communities — including Plush Mills, Daylesford Crossing, Echo Lake — residents were challenged to “build a Rube Goldberg obstacle course.” Plush Mills, which won first place, designed an obstacle course that began with a rope pull, led through dominoes and several falling books, then shot through a sluice contraption … well, you’d have to see it. (Check their website.)

Activities at The Hickman include such things as movie nights, weekday matinees, book clubs and a popular weekly knitting class led by a remarkable 100-year-old resident.

Fidget blanket made by Homestead Village residents

Across Chester County and into Lancaster County, community members at Homestead Village donate their time and talent to support a wide variety of artistic events. They’ve crafted table centerpieces, decorated apartment building hallways, created patriotic stars presented to veterans, and made “fidget blankets” — colorful quilted blankets that provide sensory interaction for skilled nursing residents.

One resident at Riddle Village LifeCare Retirement Community, Pedro Navarro, has been filming … from the air! Sending his model airplanes aloft, he created a musical video to accompany his aerial shots.

Art Taught and On Display

Many senior communities plan a full schedule of artistic activities, along with providing space to display the creations. For instance, Tel Hai Retirement Community features a ceramic center, gallery and textile arts room. In its Clark Gallery, residents display their art for the public.

Sculpture by White Horse Village resident Carol Weiss

Art classes are also conducted at Glen Mills and Exton Senior Living, where artwork will be on display in September on Grandparents Day. At Riddle Village, residents’ art is exhibited outside a dining venue and rotated monthly. Garden Spot Village offers a variety of classes and features residents’ art in the Village’s gift and art shop.

At Arbor Terrace, residents conduct painting classes and painting parties, showing their works on Facebook. Also on display there are flower arrangements, jewelry and other crafts.

Many at Barclay Friends engage in free painting, often depicting scenery and landscapes. The front hallway at Barclay Friends is typically used to show residents’ pieces.

The Lima Estates community also hosts a monthly art gallery, combining its art, photography, jewelry, knitting and woodworking with works of local artists. On occasion, there are receptions held for local artists as well.

And, later this summer, residents of the Kendal-Crosslands Communities will conduct a painting studio in which they’ll hold workshops featuring several media to explore.

Ceramics, Knitware, Wood and Jewelry

Residents at Brethren Village are working in a broad range of media. Using the community’s own kiln, they’re making ceramic Christmas trees to sell at a bazaar in December. Working with the Lancaster Guild, glass-working — stained glass, fused glass and fused-glass jewelry — is another popular creative outlet. Others use the woodshop to craft wooden cars and trivets, in addition to working on larger items like benches and furniture. Basket-weaving is yet another type of popular craft.

Dollhouse by White Horse Village resident Charles Bates

Charles Bates at White Horse Village works on making dollhouses, cabinets, stools and tables, with some of his carvings dating back 30 years. He’s rarely shown his work, though much of it is donated to good causes.

Nine experienced craftsmen work in Homestead Village’s woodshop. Recently they’ve created bookshelves for the community’s library, furniture for the common area and a stand for a weather station. This handy group has also fixed mailboxes, chess boards, antique cameras and a twin bed and chairs. Another Homestead group creates knitware — hats, scarves, fingerless gloves, neck warmers and other items, which are sold to provide funds for residents who’ve outlived their financial assets.

A new kiln and throwing wheel have captured imaginations and sparked creativity at the Dunwoody Village community. In fact, one of the residents has taken several courses and now leads Dunwoody’s courses in pottery.

Performing and Other Arts

The creative activities are not limited to the visual arts. Residents also engage in spoken or musical arts, with some resulting in performances. And, yes, sometimes you can even dance to it.

At Dunwoody Village, for example, one resident performed compositions by Schubert. Another, a retired literature professor from Villanova, offered a six-week course in Irish literature. And yet another volunteered as a docent at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Performance by the Riddle Village Singers

Many communities support choral presentations. The Homestead Harmony Chorale, of Homestead Village, performs in December and May. Lima Estates has a choir. The choral and theater group at Riddle Village performs twice per year, and a resident organist offers concerts about once a month there.

At Kendal-Crosslands, resident poet Manya reads the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz and Kabir and explores the connections between 800-year-old Sufi poetry, healing processes, contemporary culture — and oneself.

It may not be exactly what everyone considers art, but at Brethren Village the Rock’n Seniors Dance Club — and at Lima Estates, it’s Jukebox Saturday Night — they’re line dancing!

Observing and Enjoying the Professionals

And, to experience the works of professional artists, many senior communities host local performances for residents to attend.

For example, this summer, Kendal-Crosslands is hosting an impressive lineup of talent: Tony Vacca, a melodic percussionist with four decades of experience with African music; John Flynn, a singer-songwriter; Poor Man’s Gambit, a popular Irish-American group; and Zoe Mulford, playing guitar and banjo, best known for “The President Sang Amazing Grace.”

On the last Sunday of each month, residents at The Hickman are treated to a summer music series hosted by the West Chester Music Academy. Musical performances, ranging from jazz and opera to rock and classical music, are performed on residents’ birthdays.

White Horse Village provides an array of entertaining performances — choral and instrumental concerts as well as a speaker series. Willow Valley Communities offer an assortment of opportunities — classes, presentations, performances, theater — to its residents. Concerts are often held near the outdoor pavilion at Garden Spot Village. And a classical music committee at Lima Estates selects and hosts a variety of famous local performers.

A shuttle is used by Brethren Village to transport residents to the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster City and other venues. Similarly, residents of Homestead Village are offered transportation to local concerts, theaters and museums.


In short, the residents of senior communities are enjoying and engaging with the arts. They’re committing thoughts to canvas and clay, fashioning crafts of wood and stones, making music, singing and dancing.

The cat may be asleep, but the residents aren’t. In fact, they’re letting their creative juices flow!

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