Posted by Kelley Annese

As Program Coordinator for the Aging Well at Home Program in Salem, my job is to offer programs that promote healthy aging to residents living in affordable housing. My aim is to keep the residents mentally stimulated, as well as to raise their spirits with fun, engaging projects. I am always looking for creative and functional activities that are not only of interest to residents, but also provide the opportunity to facilitate connections.

Often, I get questions from residents about how they can use simple functions on their phones, such as sending and receiving text messages, or simply taking pictures. So, I decided to offer a class on cell phone photography. We are fortunate to live in an area of the country that has so much seasonal beauty and character: the golden tones of autumn, the glimmering whites of winter, the pastel brightness of spring, and the sun-washed colors of summer.

We started with spring. After teaching them the basics, I asked folks to take pictures that evoke a feeling of spring. Those who had cell phones with cameras were to take pictures and then text or email them to me (putting all their new skills to the test!). Those who did not previously know how to do this received a one-on-one lesson on the process.

I had a few goals with this project. The first was to get them thinking creatively by finding the beauty in their environment. It was an opportunity for me to give them pointers on how to use their phones more efficiently, therefore allowing them to be more connected to friends and family through picture sharing. There was even a photo exhibit at the end, which provided an opportunity to socialize and share a talent that many never knew they had.

Some residents did not have cell phones but still wanted to participate, so they used a digital camera. Everyone really enjoyed going outdoors and finding flowers to capture, or just taking pictures of family members and pets. It was rewarding to be able to help facilitate a new, creative way for participants to communicate with their friends and family.

On the day of the exhibit, photos were matted and posted in a hallway for all to see (and you can see them throughout the blog, here). Many of the photographers were pleasantly surprised with how the pictures came out and were excited to share the stories behind the photos.

Projects like this are so rewarding for me. It correlates to the greater mission of Aging Well at Home, which is to combat social isolation and foster healthy aging. Not to mention, it satisfies my own desire to be creative!