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WHATA unique senior art program in which senior participants share pivotal life experiences with young artists who then turn the story into an artistic piece in a medium of choice.
WHYTo provide a senior art program which honors the lives of elders, their experiences, and strengthens intergenerational connections and understanding. So that younger generations can gain insight into the life experience of older adults.
WHEREUSC Davis School of Gerontology.
Los Angeles, California.

Program Description

“Art is created from elders' life stories.”

“Program participants will be asked to share and ‘sketch’ pivotal experiences in their life stories. These sketches will be analyzed by USC Davis faculty across key themes, which a graphic artist will then use to guide 4 cohorts of high school and college artists in the visual translation of elders’ stories into symbolic representations (pictograms.)”

“Starting this fall, the school is working to showcase the life experiences of local Jewish seniors through a program called Zekenim, the Hebrew word for ‘elders.’ ‘Seniors’ stories will be recorded, researched, and then conveyed through visual art by high school and undergraduate college students.”
--source: Article ‘Sharing wisdom of the elders through USC’s Zekenim Project’

The Zekenim Art Program is an intergenerational art program designed to illuminate the life stories of Los Angeles’ Jewish elders. Zekenim guides Jewish older adults in sharing and sketching pivotal experiences from their life stories.

Elder workshop participants, young artists, and the art they create from life stories will be honored at a recognition reception. The Zekenim art program will also be shared with the community through exhibitions and print and electronic media.

“Gruenewald’s research has found that elders engaging in activities
they feel are meaningful and beneficial to others promotes better mental and physical well-being in later life, including increased longevity. Additional research indicates that teenagers and young adults who contribute to others by sharing their elders’ stories may also promote their own mental well-being in the process.” -Tara Gruenewald is a USC Davis assistant professor and lead project investigator. source:

“USC Davis Dean Pinchas Cohen identified the grant as a critical achievement in the advancement of the school’s Creativity and Aging Initiative
. ‘The foundation’s support will allow us to continue our efforts to identify best practices for creative engagement to promote optimal aging and support creative aging activities in Los Angeles…’ ”

The Zekenim Art Program is possible with the help of a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation to USC Davis. The grant will support also support the development of a toolkit to guide other organizations in future implementations of the program with culturally and ethnically diverse populations.

Aging Programs
Senior Activities
Senior Theater and Senior Arts

Find out more about the Zekenim Senior Art Program

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