Let Lockdowns Spur Creative Solutions in Care

Anne Basting

“Yes, And.”

It is the core philosophy of TimeSlips. And it is what this moment calls us to do.

Yes, there are quarantines rapidly multiplying in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and memory care settings across the country.  As if these residents are not already isolated enough, now they face lockdowns and even more fear than usual.

Now for the And… and how will we use our considerable creative resources to respond?

The calls for quarantine are understandable. These are COVID19’s most vulnerable. The staff, already too few in number in nearly every setting, rarely if ever has paid sick leave. It is crucial that we protect both the workers and residents in these settings.

But there is already too much boredom, too much loneliness in nursing homes. If volunteers agree to cross the threshold, it is most commonly out of pity, and to provide passive entertainment – not build meaningful relationships or even moments.

If isolation is necessary to limit the spread of COVID19, let’s get creative about how to avoid a crisis of despair in its wake.

Let’s have video conference visits from school groups to create poems together. Or create and exchange stories together.  Let’s do virtual tours of museums. Let’s do art-making exchanges with nursing homes across the world. Let’s set up choirs to sing outside the windows of the nursing homes and pipe the sound both in and out so the residents can join in. Let’s make beautiful (see-through) murals on the windows from the outside and inside.

There are telephones, video-conferencing, windows, and good old fashioned letter-writing. Let’s use them all to bring life into lockdown – and beyond.

Let’s say “Yes, and” to build positively on the momentum of this crisis to compel conversations about how health care workers need paid sick leave and, obviously, affordable access to healthcare.  If we are truly serious about staff not showing up if they are sick – then we have to create a fund to support them. Missing just one or two days of work is often enough to cause massive disruption in the financial life of a certified nursing assistant or home care worker.

Let’s say “Yes, and” to build on the growing partnerships between artists and culture-makers and the health care and social service sectors. How can theatre and music companies, museum and library programs open their programming to older adults? Those with caregiving partners and those without?

Let’s not retreat more than we usually do from nursing homes and memory care settings. Instead, the virus can be a rallying cry to see the human need for meaningful companionship in places we simply ignore until the need for such care touches the lives of a mother, a father, or a spouse.

Let’s say “Yes, and” – together.

Anne Basting, PhD, is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is author of the forthcoming Creative Care and founder and President of

Photo: Participatory mural by artist Andee Rudloff. Alex Slitz, Bowling Green Daily News.