Every month we invite one of our team members to sit down with us and tell us more about their journey to Elder Care Alliance, their role now and their insights into older adult care. We are excited to share the expertise and knowledge of our many team members who come to work every day and help our residents live enjoyable lives with us. Today we welcome Erin Partridge. Ph.D., ATR-BC. Experiential Researcher in Residence

Us: Please tell us a little about your background and your role at Elder Care Alliance.

Erin: I’m an artist who grew up in a creative family that emphasized intergenerational connections. Though I’ve worked with many different populations as a board-certified, registered art therapist (ATR-BC), working with older adults is what I’m most passionate about.

I started with ECA on Christmas Day, 2010, as an art therapist in Life Enrichment. I’ve worked full-time in two of our communities, plus facilitated art and art therapy opportunities across all our communities. While working in Life Enrichment, I completed my Ph.D. in art therapy and did my dissertation study with our ECA residents, staff, family, volunteers and leadership. We used technology-facilitated art and a mural to explore communication in older adult care settings.

Part of my work involves anti-ageism efforts in educational settings. as well as city- and state-wide advocacy work. I’ve also had opportunities to give presentations about our ECA work across the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.

Us: How does your work benefit residents at Elder Care Alliance communities?

Erin: One thing that has been really important in the research we’ve done is getting the residents’ input into the conversations where decisions are made and innovations happen. It’s been a great honor to carry their words and ideas around the world and to see the interest and curiosity when stakeholders in the arts, health and technology realize that they may need to rethink assumptions.

We view our residents as co-researches and the experts in their own lived experiences. My favorite story about this idea is an older adult who told a public health researcher from a state agency that “we do our own research here.” What an empowered statement! Our community residents have shaped product development, informed published best practices, guided business decisions, influenced teaching, questioned biases and stimulated new ideas. 

Us: What is one of your favorite memories or experiences working at Elder Care Alliance?

Erin: That’s tough. Someone recently teased that I describe every story as my favorite. I’ve published many of them in my book, “Art Therapy With Older Adults: Connected and Empowered.” 

One of my favorite unpublished stories is about one of our residents who invited a bunch of us to go to the opening of her daughter’s show at a local art gallery. Our resident was so proud of her daughter, so proud to show the work to her fellow residents. She embodied the role of the proud mother: making introductions and welcoming people to the show. It was lovely to witness.

Us: What is the greatest reward that your role at Elder Care Alliance brings?

Erin: Stories. Definitely the stories. Stories that I’ll carry in my heart and mind forever. Some are in words, some in images, and some are simple things like eye contact and gestures. I’ve said and written it before, but this work has changed me forever.

Us: Can you share any insights into new activities, programs. menu options, etc you’re planning for the future?

Erin: I’m very inspired by some of the students we’ve worked with. They have exciting and sensitive ideas about adaptive art supplies for older adults. I hope to see them continue to develop and enable more older adults benefit from access to art and the means to create.