I am a native born Floridian. I have endured more than my fair share of insults from smug, sometimes even cocky inhabitants of other states/countries. We have been criticized for our apparent lack of seasons, our proximity to amusement parks, our perceived inability to count election ballots, and for the inordinate number of amphibians and reptiles lurking along our shorelines. Sloughing off these slights, I’m here to boast about my community and the fact Central Florida is at the forefront of a movement within the health care industry, one involving creativity and wellness. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend time with fascinating people from arts organizations, caregiving agencies, colleges, philanthropic organizations and foundations, and national advocacy groups. Most of the participants (myself included) are ambassadors for a Creative Caregiving Initiative launched last year by the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). The Center developed an online Creative Caregiving Guide, the purpose of which is to create a community culture where arts and wellness are accessible to everyone. This kit, designed by master artists, contains creative modules intended to provide small moments of care and creativity for caregivers and their loved ones. The focus is respite for the caregiver and quality of life for the patient. This was the brain-child of Margery Pabst Steinmetz, of the Pabst Foundation for the Arts. She says,
“The life of a caregiver is often filled with isolation, loneliness, stress, and depression with patches of sunlight and hope. We saw the arts as a beacon of hope.”I admit to being a Margie Pabst groupie. Caregiving is her passion. Margie is a blogger; host of Caregivers Speak! a live online radio show; author- Enrich Your Caregiving Journey and Words of Care; and President of the National Center for Creative Aging. She believes creativity is at the crux of caregiving. Margie is also on the Board of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. The Atlantic Center for the Arts is a totally cool artists-in-residence center nestled on a 70 acre ecological preserve in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Even a single visit to this oasis can result in a drop in blood pressure it is so lovely and calming. Largely due to Margie’s influence, ACA has launched a Community Arts and Wellness Initiative focusing on connecting artists with patients and caregivers. I love the fact ACA is using the Creative Caregiving Guide to help all age demographics, from residents at the Ocean View Nursing and Rehab Center to homeless high school students. Arts and wellness programs are being introduced in medical schools at Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, and (thanks to Margie Pabst Steinmetz) at the University of Central Florida's new medical school. They are finding that engagement with the arts is helpful in brain injuries, PTSD, and Alzheimer's. Studies are finding emersion in the arts makes for better, happier and more empathetic doctors. I have confessed in previous posts to being a creativity evangelist, so convinced am I of the potential life changing capabilities of creativity. I’m happy to have met Margie Pabst who is this description on steroids. She is proving that even a little creative thinking can have seismic changes in our community.