EngAGE tried something completely different at Park Plaza Senior Apartments in North Hollywood, CA, a property known for its fiercely separatist cultural diversity between the residents from Armenia and Russia. The factions seemed to be the last holdover from the “old” countries, their differences as aggressively protected as elephants over a fallen member of the herd.
They also have maintained a gender divide here, the men never sitting with the women, removing themselves instead to the far reaches of the wall, where they hunch like anchored Sea Lions, squinting over the proceedings.
The women are just as stoic. Planted in their chairs, they silently sip their juice, the merest nod of their heads a token acknowledgment that the entertainment might be pleasing.
So, EngAGE bringing in an animated female story-teller with purple hair and invitations to “come, speak, and tell stories” was about as inviting, and comfortable, to the Park Plaza residents as jumping off a cliff. Or speaking in their broken English.
But at the first meeting, Sarah Jacobus – all rosy cheeked bon-homie – sat in the community room and amassed a small gathering. Four or five at first, and then four or five more, tentatively sidled over to the table while she handed around pictures and encouraged comment. The ladies peeked out from their silence, like Siberian daffodils sprouting through the snow.
Here are the ladies, engaging. Yes, Tanya enticed them with platters of cheese and crackers, but that was just something to nibble on while smiling Sarah spun her web of story enchantment.
Welcome, ladies! “Once Upon A Time”. . .
~ Elizabeth Sampson, Regional Program Director
Instructor Sarah Jacobus is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Master of Fine Arts Degree in creative writing. She is committed to the practice of creative engagement as a tool for meaningful self-expression and community building. She was trained and certified by TimeSlips founder Anne Basting, Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Timeslips, an organization that opens storytelling to everyone by replacing the pressure to remember with the freedom to imagine.