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Culture Bus Inside and Out

CJE SeniorLife

Chicago, IL


CJE, a non-profit organization, responds to the needs of older adults and their families with a range of services including health care and rehabilitation, housing and community based services (such as in home care, home delivered meals and more).  CJE serves 16,000 clients and their families in metropolitan Chicago on an annual basis.

Culture Bus Inside and Out began in the Fall of 2002 when participants in an early stage dementia support group, hosted by Northwestern Hospital’s Cognitive Neurology Clinic, voiced a desire for more appropriate social and cultural activities than were available in traditional adult day service settings. In response, Northwestern and CJE partnered to create the Culture Bus program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Culture Bus Inside and Out meets once a week for forty weeks per year. Meetings are supervised by one CJE staff person who is trained in art therapy, counseling and dementia and acts as planner and facilitator.  Three volunteers augment staffing.  Outdoor sessions last six hours and offer participants meaningful cultural experiences and socialization with visits to cultural venues, artist studios and restaurant dining. Past trips have included: a glass blowing studio, a yoga/meditation center, and the Museum of Lapidary Art. During the five hour indoor sessions, participants engage in expressive art activities and also dine together. Inside activities have included: a drumming circle, improvisational drama, poetry writing and oil painting. The paintings were exhibited in a professional gallery.

The program offers family caregivers much needed respite. In addition, family caregivers provide input and participate in group gatherings at the beginning of each session and a hands-on creative arts activity at the culmination of each season.

Comments: This program serves both persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their caregivers and closes a gap in the care continuum by addressing the needs of persons with early stage disease. The Culture Bus not only builds community among participants, but it takes affected families out of institutions and the home setting into the community. The program is highly replicable. Northwestern University is evaluating the program and findings from the evaluation have informed the expansion of the program.