Certified Facilitator Spotlight: Meghan Young

Editor’s note: Meghan Young, MGS, began her career in the aging and the arts in 2013. Since then, Meghan has earned her master’s degree in gerontology; worked on research projects dedicated to making communities more age- and dementia-friendly; instructed virtual, intergenerational service-learning courses; co-trained long-term care providers in the OMA program; and implemented arts-based activities for long-term care residents. She believes everyone, regardless of age or ability, can share their life stories through the arts. 

For more information about Opening Minds through Art (OMA), click here.

TimeSlips: What is your job title and how/when did you come to use TimeSlips with your students? 

Meghan: My journey with TimeSlips started as an undergraduate student at Miami University (Ohio). In my first year, I enrolled in a gerontology service-learning class in which I had the opportunity to assist with storytelling sessions at local nursing homes. I was intrigued by the concept of creative aging and working with people living with dementia, so I declared gerontology as my major. Since then, I have completed my Master of Gerontological Studies Degree, worked as a Research Associate at the Scripps Gerontology Center, and now I am the Associate Director of the Opening Minds through Art (OMA) program at Scripps. One of my responsibilities as Associate Director is to instruct OMA courses at Miami.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, OMA classes shifted from in-person to virtual to accommodate Miami students all over the globe. TimeSlips was a program we knew we could incorporate into our virtual OMA classes because of the similarity in program values. The students went through the two-hour training on the TimeSlips website and learned more about asking questions, how to listen and react, and capturing the story completely. They worked in small groups (three students and one older adult) and wrote stories together.  

TimeSlips: What is Opening Minds through Art for those who haven’t heard of it? How do you see the parallels with TimeSlips? How does it differ?

Meghan: Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is an intergenerational abstract art program. The mission of the program is to build bridges across age and cognitive barrier through art. People living with dementia (artists) are paired 1:1 with volunteers (students) who are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills. OMA enables people living with dementia to assume new roles as artists and teachers and leave a legacy of beautiful artwork. Students build communication skills and empathy toward their partners through weekly art sessions for 10-12 weeks during an academic semester. Research on the program shows the benefits for both the older adults and the students involved.

The most notable difference between TimeSlips and OMA is the mode of expression (storytelling vs visual art). TimeSlips sessions are filled with wonderful questions to invite imaginative responses to prompts and photos, while OMA sessions allow artists to explore colors, textures, tools, and art styles. However, the essence of both programs is very similar. Both programs provide people living with dementia autonomy, choice, and the ability to freely express their creativity without the fear of failure. It is fantastic that these programs share a strong, united philosophy of providing creative care.

TimeSlips: What does TimeSlips open up for your students in their learning, their personal growth?

Meghan: I believe TimeSlips allows students to explore creativity in a familiar way. The tools students need for a successful session are the ability to communicate with the older adults and an imagination. I feel both things should be familiar to all people as they are fundamental to being human. While participating in the program, students expand their ability to communicate and understand someone else’s ideas. This is a valuable skill that will serve them well beyond their time in college.

TimeSlips: What is your favorite story of how TimeSlips and OMA have intersected?

Meghan: I think my favorite intersection of programs was from my time as a student. One of the TimeSlips participants I worked with was influenced by pop-culture and cartoons, so many times our story would include names of characters from TV shows he watched. The same participant attended OMA sessions and I could pick out his artwork in an instant based on the title! His creativity and love of pop culture carried over into his OMA work. When I walk past his framed artwork and read the titles, they always put a smile on my face. I think back to the times we would tell stories together and I am grateful to have those memories.  

TimeSlips: If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go and why?

Meghan: I would pack my bags and head to New Zealand! I’ve always wanted to take in the scenery and visit some iconic destinations.