Program Overview

It Takes a Village is a community-wide program to support people—mostly elderly—facing the cognitive challenges associated with aging who want to remain engaged in living with a quality of life—a life worth living.  It is a win-win program which employs minimal new resources to leverage a great deal of untapped community services.  The essential partnerships of It Takes a Village are: community, cultural, and research partners.

Spoke Wheel, It Takes a Village, I'm Still Here Foundation

The ARTZ Center

The ARTZ Center is the hub of the village—actually a virtual village.  The ARTZ Center Director coordinates weekly events throughout the community, each specially planned for those with cognitive challenges.  Trained in the I’m Still Here approach to interaction, care, and engagement of this population the ARTZ Center Director not only facilitates the program with Village partners like museums, but trains others—mostly volunteers—to adopt this approach so that as demand for programs increases through greater community awareness, resources to meet these needs grow concomitantly.  The ARTZ Center establishes programs, invites community and cultural partners to participate, takes reservations, runs the programs, coordinates artists, and manages publicity—this latter is essential to increase community awareness and educate the community at large.

It Takes a Village Programs and Partners

The ARTZ center is the hub while individual ARTZ programs represent the spokes of the It Takes a Village wheel.  All programs have been developed and refined over years by the I’m Still Here Foundation and are accompanied by structured trainings and instructional material. These include:

  • Meet Me at the Museum & Make Memories (the ARTZ Museum Network - free, weekly dementia-specific program)
  • Meet Me at the Movies & Make Memories (quarterly icon movie clips programming held at a local theater)
  • It Takes a Village (including, for example, seated yoga at a yoga studio, story writing at bookstores, and history lessons at historic sites).
  • Parks and outdoor exercise (nature walks and exploration)
  • Market Days (trips to local farmer’s markets)
  • Amateur, college, and professional sports teams - practices and games included
  • Music and dance events at appropriate art venues (folk singing at the local music school, concert series by the local symphony)

Recruiting Community Partners

Many elders facing cognitive decline spend nearlt 100% of their lives inside—in nursing and assisted living facilities and at home with personal care.  These potential participants who It Takes a Village events are intended to include often have lives that shrink day-by-day as they become increasingly alienated from their community.  Because of the many excuses made and the difficulty of solving the “threshold” problem, people in such institutions and individuals often never cross the threshold.  The ARTZ Center Director works with such organizations to develop solutions to this problem: creating a cultural paradigm shift in dementia care.  

Research

Although each ARTZ program that makes up the It Takes a Village program clearly improves the lives of participants—as is obvious to anyone who participates and observes—to be sustainable over time requires evidence-based objective outcomes research.  Methods and methodologies for studying these effects on individuals, groups, and the community as a whole have been developed both by researchers at the I’m Still Here Foundation and by local academics.  Only if research is carried out with positive findings will public policy be influenced, funding continued, and the program be scaled up to help many others.

The evaluation of these programs includes the following:

  • Numbers of persons with dementia taking part
  • Numbers taking part in multiple programs each month
  • Level of engagement among participants
  • Reductions of the 4 A’s of Alzheimer’s—Anxiety, Agitation, Aggression, and Apathy—as reported by care partners
  • Improved quality of life among participants and care partners
  • Caregiver burden—reduction in feeling burdened
  • Number of volunteers engaged
  • Number of family partners taking part
  • Public awareness of the program
  • Reduced stigma attitudes among participants, care partners, and the general public