How Cailey Massey uses art programs to engage older adults

May 13, 2022
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Cailey Massey @ Artfull Enrichment Inc.

Episode Summary

Join us as we discover how to create an engaging, impactful resident experience on Care - the Resident Experience Podcast from Welbi. This month, host Terry Wang chats with Cailey Massey, founder of Artfull Enrichment about the role of art in resident engagement.

Every month on Care, host Terry Wang chats with some of the best leaders in senior living to discover and share innovative new strategies and perspectives that will impact communities for years to come.


Terrence Wang (Welbi)   00:00

You're listening to Care, the Resident Experience podcast from Welbi. Every month we chat with some of the best leaders in senior living to discover and share innovative strategies and perspectives that will impact communities for years to come. As always, I'm your host, Terry, and today with me is Cailey Massey, founder of Artfull Enrichment, where she provides art programs to older adult communities that inspire lifelong creativity. Cailey, how are you doing?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   00:25

I'm good. Happy to be here.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   00:29

Before we get into what we really want to talk about, art and creativity in older adults, why don't you give us a little bit of background on where you came from, how you got into this field, and the story behind Artfull Enrichment?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   00:43

Yeah. So from where I started out, I had no clue I would end up where I am today. I ended up going to an art school in Nova Scotia in Halifax. I studied fine arts there and majored in painting, drawing, and art history. After studying there, I kind of naturally was pulled to working at art studios and began teaching and working with older adults, children, adults, and people of all ages. And it was a really informative time because I was able to understand how to work with different ages and how to adapt my program approaches depending on the groups that I was working with and their experience level. And then that took me to working for a company out West that owns and operates older adult communities. So that was my initial segway into the older adult industry, and that was an incredible experience. I was hired on to develop their creative programs for their communities. I think what was so unique about that experience is that I was able to work really closely with the residents and the staff, from the operation side of things to the programming side of things, to build programs for these communities that really reflected the population and how these communities function.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   02:25

And that must have been a big shift for you because I was thinking, you've taught older adults before you started working exclusively in the senior living industry, correct?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   02:38


Terrence Wang (Welbi)   02:39

But you were also teaching, I'm guessing most art studios deal with a ton of different students, whether it's kids, young adults, people going through middle age?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   02:50

Yeah, definitely. Art does not discriminate against age. Anybody can participate. So I work with people of all ages.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   02:58

So how did it feel when you first got the offer to go to the senior living community? How did that make you feel?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   03:05

You know what? It was interesting because I had worked when I was a teenager in high school at a long term care home as a dietary aid. So, I worked on the other side of the community. I was familiar with how these communities work and operate. But I think what I really enjoyed about working for this company was being able to connect with the residents and ensure that the programs that I was delivering were the result of their feedback and their input. I know people like to say this a lot. It was person-centred programming. I was thinking constantly about how we can engage people more. How can we reach out to people who maybe feel underserved in this community and make everybody feel welcome? How can we make art programming a lot more accessible to the entire community, not just one specific group?

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   04:10

I think a lot of the time one of the problems is that you group older adults into this big homogenized group where it's, oh, they're all the same. All their needs are the same. And maybe you don't think that from a clinical perspective, but certainly from a recreation perspective. I think a lot of people have that misunderstanding. How did you tackle that?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   04:32

I think that is such an important thing to talk about and it's such a tricky area to navigate sometimes. I think you can't group everybody in a certain age demographic into the same category and say everyone in this category needs this, this and this. You really have to think about the wide range of experience levels that people are bringing to the table and the range of interest. So I think creating programs that have multiple entry points, so multiple reasons why somebody would want to attend a program, maybe they want to attend for social reasons, maybe they want to come because they want to develop their skills, or maybe they're looking to really explore their creative side. I think by opening up the reasons for people to attend the program, that's your best way to engage the widest and broadest audience, because we don't want to underestimate the experience levels that people are bringing to each program.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   05:47

For sure. And I think for art it's one of those pieces where people can feel very self conscious about it. If they haven't touched a paintbrush in 10 or 20 years, maybe never, they might be nervous to try it. Even if they do want to be creative, even if they do want to get better, they might say, oh, this isn't for me, I don't want to embarrass myself. Right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   06:09

Yeah. And you know what? Art is a funny thing. It's very intimidating for a lot of people, which I can appreciate. But I also think the beautiful thing about art is it's very open to interpretation, individual expression, experience. So it's not about right and wrong ways of doing things. It's about just finding your own avenue to it and not putting so much pressure on yourself to produce. And art, from a lot of different perspectives, can be a learned skill. So if you're not flexing those creative muscles constantly, they may need a little bit of time and attention. The more you do something, the better you're going to get at it, the easier it's going to come to you, the more natural it's going to be. The same goes for art. So I think for people who are intimidated by the experience, they just need to delve into it and try to remove that intimidation barrier.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   07:18

I think it's also really important as staff, as people who are creating programs and running programs to be cognizant of this. Because for sure, I think there's going to be a percentage of the community population that is really into this already and really fluid and understands it. Even if they're not the greatest artists per se, they're comfortable with it. They want to do it. This is something that they've already invested in. This is why they're at the community. But then there are the people that might be a little bit hesitant who you need to maybe push a little bit to try this. What would your strategy be to engage those types of residents?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   07:55

Well, to be honest, this is why I started Artfull Enrichment. After I worked for a company out West, when I came back to Ontario, I found that when I was working with older adult communities that the engagement in art programming was really low for a lot of people. And there's lots of reasons for that. I think one of the reasons is that staff members don't feel comfortable facilitating art programming. Budget is a big factor. And residents don't necessarily always feel artistically inclined or they're intimidated, like I said, by the process of making art or talking about art. Something that I really wanted to address with creating Artfull Enrichment was designing programs that are accessible to people, no matter their experience. All of our programs are step by step. So even if somebody says, oh, they look at the project, and I can't do that. When you break something down step by step and provide them with the tools and resources to guide them through that process, it can really remove the barriers for a lot of people. And the idea is that our programs can be implemented by in-house staff, even if the staff don't have experience. That is a big barrier to programming as well. If the staff aren't comfortable running the programs, the residents aren't going to get the programs. So having resources and guides that ensure that staff feel comfortable and confident running these programs is really key to the success of it.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   09:43

A hundred percent. Especially since I think a lot of Rec Managers, they're managers per se, but their team is maybe three people at a community, right? If that. Then they have to be a jack of all trades. They have to be able to engage in physical wellness, spiritual wellness. They have to help them with their creativity. And you can't be an expert at everything, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   10:09


Terrence Wang (Welbi)   10:09

So the step by step programs, for sure a hundred percent they make sense to me. It makes it easy to implement. It takes away the pressure of saying I have to be an expert artist to teach this art class, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   10:22

Yes. I think, like you mentioned, a lot of Rec staff and programming staff are spread so thin, especially in these times right now. There's so much being asked of them and anything that will make their job easier and allow them to implement a program with ease is extremely beneficial to obviously them and their residents and the entire functioning of their community. We have video tutorials, we have live workshops. By adding in these different options, it really allows staff members to hopefully utilize their time as best as possible. And instead of them having to create the programs and facilitate them, they just have to facilitate them.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   11:18

I think that's also one of the challenges. We're asking a lot. Sometimes I feel like from operations, they get this idea that, oh, it's just activities. But coming up with all of these different ways to engage somebody can be very challenging. Not just to organize and plan, but also to run. So that's where I think a lot of companies like Artfull Enrichment come in where you guys are able to help there. You guys are able to provide a stepping stone for them, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   11:49

Yeah. I think Rec Therapists and Life Enrichment staff, they often are passionate about what they do, and they want to make sure that they have really robust programs for their residents. We work really closely with a lot of Rec Therapists. All of our programs are developed based on their feedback and their input. A lot of the time, people will request programs that they're getting requested from their residents. We're constantly implementing new tools and resources to make the process as smooth as possible for them, because their time is just so valuable and we want to make sure that they feel supported in what they do.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   12:36

A hundred percent. With that, there's a couple of other points I just realized that are really interesting. Most of the time, you work with the Rec Therapists and the Activity Professionals themselves, right? But I'm guessing whenever you're talking to a community about implementing some of Artfull Enrichment's programs, you have to end up talking to operations. You have to talk to the people who ultimately write the budget. How do you explain to them the value of it? Because a lot of the time they don't work day to day with residents, they don't see the impacts that more creative programming can provide. So how do you get them to see that vision?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   13:13

I think it's tricky sometimes with the operations side of things and the on-the-ground programming staff. There can be some disconnect in terms of implementing new programs, between what is actually going to work and what is more idyllic in that it would be great if it works, but realistically, it's really difficult to implement for the programming team. I think for us, when we speak with the directors and managers, we like to loop in the programming staff right from the get go. On the first conversation we make sure that we get their buy-in as well, because they understand the residents and they understand the community the best. A lot of these people have really strong relationships with residents, so they know if these programs are going to work or not in their community. And for us, we want to make sure that these programs are not just going in there and not being used. The whole idea is that we are providing these resources so that they can really enrich these communities and transform the creative culture of the community, not just sit there so that people use up their budget and never see the impact of these programs. So I think including the programming team from the get go with the operations side of things in that conversation to make sure that it's the right fit is important for any program.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   14:43

I think you brought up a really good point there about making sure that the programs are actually being implemented because your goal ultimately isn't to sell them programming, right? It's to get them to do the programming and to see the effects of it.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   14:58


Terrence Wang (Welbi)   14:59

So on that side, what strategies are you using — because it must be difficult, even for a team that's super eager to get started to slowly implement these things. So how do you work with communities to get them to build more and more artful content?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   15:18

We have a facilitator resource section on our Member's Portal, and we talk a lot about how to take the art experience beyond a 1 hour program. So instead of it just being about, let's engage these ten residents in this 1 hour program, and then that's it, we talk about how we can take that beyond, and there's lots of ways to do that. Some of the communities that we work with will hang and display artwork around the community that was created by residents in an Artfull program. Someone sent us a photo the other day, they made tote bags with some of the artworks they made from the program, and they're giving those out to prospective residents. So it can become a marketing tool for them that way. We often encourage people to have high school students come in or people of different generations to come in and participate in the programs, or family members. I think just finding ways to expand upon the program has been a key component for the success of the program. But it really does range, every community is completely different. Some of the communities will use the program a couple of times a month. Some of them will use it a couple of times a week. The way that we've adapted, especially over these last couple of years, is by expanding our program offerings. So if one community has a group of residents that are really independent and maybe they prefer hanging out in their suite or their apartment, we have printable art activities that can be given out to residents to pursue independently. I think it's important because some people prefer art to be an intimate experience rather than a shared group experience, so having lots of different options is the key.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   17:27

A hundred percent. I think art in that way is really cool because of how many different ways it can engage somebody. Because there's creating it and then there's a social aspect to it, but there's also a self learning where I think you get to know yourself better by being creative and pouring your soul into what you're doing. And then there's that sharing part, whether it's you putting it up in your room and being proud of your own work or showcasing it in the whole community and sharing that with other people. I think that could be really powerful for communities, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   18:03

Yeah, and it instills pride in the creator as well. You can say this about anybody. It doesn't matter how old you are. If you hang an artwork up in a lobby and your family member or friend or peer comes by and admires it, that feels really good. And those good feelings last. They last beyond that art experience, they kind of transform into other areas of your life. A lot of times, it can lead to improved confidence and to further engagement in other programs. There's so many ancillary benefits to creating. I think something that you mentioned, too, this idea of learning about ourselves through art is such an important part of it because art is a great tool for communicating ideas and thoughts and emotions. Especially for people who might be facing memory loss or cognitive impairment. It can be a communication tool for people who have maybe lost some of their verbal skills or are just navigating a different experience.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   19:25

It can almost be like journaling in a way, I feel, where it's not a literal description of what's happening, but it captures how you feel emotionally. And I think that's just as important, if not more important sometimes. That's really interesting now that you think about it.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   19:44

Yeah. It's a time for self reflection. I know people talk a lot about flow state, and art definitely has the ability to get someone into flow state where you're so present and not actively thinking about what you're doing, you're just doing. And that can be such a powerful experience and you can truly learn something about yourself in those moments.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   20:13

With all this being said, I think again, it goes back to taking that first step as a community. Because I think one of the hardest parts of implementing any kind of new program or anything in a community is that initial shock of, oh my God, this is going to be difficult. This is going to take time. Maybe it's easier and less stressful if I just do what I've always been doing, right? So what would you recommend as a first step for people who maybe want to test the waters of a creative type of event for their residents but maybe aren't ready to step into like, okay, let's implement this throughout?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   20:47

Yeah, I think, well, there's a couple of different ways, but I know personally through Artfull Enrichment, you can pilot the programs for free, which I think is a really good test, because as I mentioned, we want to make sure that these programs are going to be used and they're going to benefit the community. They're not just sitting there. So piloting the programs no matter what it is, I think is a really great idea. But that being said, it does take time to grow a program. It takes time to implement it into the calendar, and it takes time to engage people and build the momentum of a program. So it's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to happen even in a month. It usually takes a couple of months to get people down to the program. As soon as people get there and they remove that intimidation barrier, then your programs are really going to pick up speed and gain momentum from that point on.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   21:54

Yeah, I really like that point about lowering your expectations for it, because I think what happens a lot is that the Rec team, they have this idea they want to implement. Let's just say it's art programs, and then they put it in there, they put it on the calendar. But then obviously not everybody knows about it initially because people know their own schedules. It's a new program. So people are maybe a little bit nervous about joining. Then the first week you run it, you have maybe two people when you expected and planned it out for 15, right? And then it's like, oh, should we even run this anymore? But it's sticking through that, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   22:32

And I think what a lot of Rec teams will see is it's the same people coming down to every kind of program. So a way to break that cycle would be to ask people to invite a friend down or one of their tablemates to come down and join them. What I've always done when I've run programs and what I've suggested that other people do if they're trying to grow a program is invite people down and just invite them to come sit, listen to music, watch. You can put out the supplies in front of them, or they can just socialize and enjoy. You know what? It doesn't have to be a hard go right into it where you have to create something. I think easing someone into it and showing them that it’s very accessible has been a successful way to get more people down to a program.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   23:38

Because I think, again, that's half of the challenge right there, right? A good part of it is actually engaging the program. Well, I think it comes down to three parts. I think we touched on all three of them. It's improving the programs over time and taking that feedback. It's actually running engaging programs, but it's also convincing people just to come and then not be intimidated and to be comfortable and to be themselves there, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   24:02

Yeah. I had a gentleman that would come to a program and he would just sit and watch, and that was fantastic. It was really nice to have somebody there. He did kind of take the pressure off some of the artists who are working away because he just chatted and we listened to music. Then slowly over the month, he picked up a paintbrush or pencil and started participating in the programs. And then he was like the number one participant there every time. So having that gradual introduction into something, I think most people appreciate that rather than just getting pushed right into something. You don't want to force it, right?

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   24:46

Yeah. I really love that story, by the way, because I think that's the best example I've heard in a while of how nonlinear adoption can be, because a lot of people I feel like would turn that person away and be like, oh, if you don't want to participate, then you can't sit here, right?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   25:04

Yeah. And I think a trap that a lot of people fall into is, oh, I've never done anything like that in my life. That's not me, I'm not creative. They just kind of box themselves in. Especially for people who are older and it's been a longer period where they haven't done something, maybe they're a bit more hesitant to try something new. Maybe not. But for those that are hesitant, I think that soft introduction is really important to show them, look what you can do, try it. You may like it, you may not. But what is the harm in trying something new?

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   25:46

Exactly. And it takes the pressure off, right. Because in addition, I think with the actual stressfulness of maybe trying something you've never done before, it might also be participating with the social circle you've never done anything with, right? So I like how the gentleman you described, that's a really good example, I think, of how you can integrate him into that new social circle first. Then gradually as he becomes comfortable there, he realizes, oh, I really love art. And it's easier to make that introduction once he's already comfortable with everybody in the program.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   26:24

Definitely. Having some kind of connection to the people that you're sitting beside is a great way to infuse your program and build it. That's why I think introducing consistency in your programming is important as well. So, let's say your program's every Tuesday and that's a great way for people to say, oh, I'm going to see this person every Tuesday, I know what we're going to do. It creates this camaraderie between the people who are creating alongside each other and it can build some really strong connections and unlikely relationships with people in the community as well.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   27:10

On that note, I think we're starting to run out of time and I think that was a really lovely place to end off on. That was a great note to kind of cap things off. Before we head out though, if anybody listening is interested in Artfull Enrichment, which they should be, where can they find you and what are the first steps to get in contact and get this started?

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   27:31

So they can always reach out to me. I don't know if you'll link my email or?

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   27:38

I'll link it or at least link your website where they can probably go to your email.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   27:43

Yeah, or they can go to our website artfullenrichment.com and Artfull is with two L's just, to throw a little spanner in the works. They can go to the contact page and reach out to us that way. We're also going to be adding to our website very shortly an option so people can actually purchase a membership right from the website, which will be a great option as well.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   28:09

A hundred percent, that will make it much easier for people. No more contacting forms, back and forth calls.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   28:15


Terrence Wang (Welbi)   28:17

It's beautiful how much technology can help in that way.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   28:20

I know, it's a lifesaver.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   28:24

I bet. Thank you so much, Cailey, for joining us on the show today and hopefully we'll be talking again soon.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   28:31

Yeah. Thank you so much, Terry. It's been great.

Terrence Wang (Welbi)   28:34

Awesome. Thanks.

Cailey Massey (Artfull Enrichment)   28:36

Take care.

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