One of the most difficult tasks the government faces is connecting with citizens. We read about different policies being implemented in the news and the various city initiatives our tax dollars pay for but we rarely recognize situations where these policies have a direct impact on our daily lives. The question remains: how do we bridge the gap between government and constituents? New technology? Ad campaigns? Media?

While there is no hard and fast answer, I am fortunate enough to be working on a project that shows citizens how the government can make a direct, positive impact on a community. More than a year ago, the Indiana State Department of Health issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for projects focused on improving cognitive and physical engagement of nursing home residents through the implementation of an expressive arts program. Ultimately, the project sought to improve quality of care and quality of life for nursing home residents who were given the opportunity to participate in expressive arts activities.

The project was launched with the following objectives:

  • To implement an expressive arts program for long term care facilities
  • To provide education, training, tools, and support for immediate implementation following completion of the expressive arts course
  • To develop an Expressive Arts Course and an Expressive Arts Train-the-Trainer Course
  • To provide project leaders with the skills needed to implement expressive arts programs in long term care facilities

Through this project I have witnessed the benefits a government project can provide. During various trainings throughout Indiana, I have listened as subject matter experts in the different art modalities (art, music, writing, movement, drama) teach nursing home Activities Directors how the arts can impact their residents. I have learned how music can bring a man with dementia who can barely speak start singing at the top of his lungs a song he heard back in the 1930s word for word. I have observed how movement can make a 90-year-old woman dance as though she is back at her high school prom. I have read poems from nursing home residents that are published in magazines.

The content and tools this course provides elicits a broad spectrum of emotions from all participants. From gleeful laughter to joyful tears, it has been such a rewarding experience to see how excited the participants get and how anxious they are to begin implementing these tools themselves.

Is a course implementation the best way to bridge the gap between government and its constituents? Maybe, maybe not. I can say with confidence, however, that this project made a direct impact on everyday citizens of Indiana and, in the end, that is what matters the most.