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Creative Engagements – An Adventure in Imagination!

Start with a simple question, such as “What makes you happy?” Add a group of Croasdaile residents with varied personalities and abilities. Sprinkle in just a few Duke student volunteers. Top off the mix with skilled facilitator and ultimate cheerleader Caroline Ryskiewich, and you have a recipe for a thought-provoking, stress-relieving, entertaining, hour-long session called Creative Engagements.

Following an opening “icebreaker” question, Caroline introduces a theme for each session. To illustrate, she shares an unusual, ‘quirky’ photo. She then leads the group through a story-writing exercise based on that photo. Each member contributes his or her thoughts about the photo’s message, and a crazy, creative “story” emerges, along with lots of laughter. The group operates with the motto, “there are no rules and no wrong answers,” so imaginations have free rein. Caroline offers prompts and questions along the way as the story twists and turns its way to a novel conclusion – with no resemblance to a publishable work!

Creative Engagements is an outgrowth of the TimeSlips program, a worldwide program promoting creative experiences for older adults to encourage brain health and enjoyment of life as we age. TimeSlips certifies volunteers like Caroline and provides resources for engaging creatively with seniors individually and in varied care settings. The TimeSlips website states, “Our bold vision is that creative expressions, growth and meaning is available to us at every stage of life, no matter where we live or our abilities.”

Several months ago, a TimeSlips publication included an interview with Caroline, in which she describes the Croasdaile Creative Engagements group. Here’s what Caroline had to say: “It’s so fulfilling to see how every single person has adopted the ‘no wrong answer’ mindset. When one of our residents says something unexpected or odd, I’m not the only one nodding along. The whole group is encouraging. I look around the room and see everyone nodding and smiling. It makes my heart so full that we’ve created such a safe space. Our group has become a family.” Caroline goes on to say, “Most things on our activities calendar are based on shared talent or skill—crocheting, singing, woodworking. Creative Engagements is the one place on campus where the only requirement is this: humanness. Our shared ‘interest’ is simply shared humanity. I have residents tell me it’s the one time they feel safe, without judgment.”

Creative Engagement sessions are held twice each month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, at 10:00 a.m., in Boles LL meeting room. Participants say they enjoy coming because “it’s just plain fun!”

Sessions provide things to think about, allow freedom to say what you think, and offer connections and shared laughter. Sound inviting? All are welcome!