With museums across the country closed down due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Senior Planet has turned to virtual visits; bringing art from local communities onto members’ computer and phone screens. For instance, Senior Planet San Antonio members have “visited” places like The McNay Museum, Ruby City, and The San Antonio Museum of Art, all from the safety of home.
But was that enough? Looking to bring a more personal touch to these art tours, Texas State Director DeAnne Cuellar reached out to her longtime friend Ernesto Olivo, art and social media coordinator at The Children’s Shelter, a safe haven for abused, neglected or abandoned children from birth to 16 in San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas.
The result: a unique and touching virtual art show, designed by the children just for Senior Planet members.
Friends and Project Partners
“Before the stay at home orders went into effect,” Cuellar says, “Senior Planet San Antonio was already in the process of planning with The Children’s Shelter. We learned from tours of their facilities that abused children suffer from the same social determinants of health as older adults in our community; such as lack of transportation, food scarcity, housing, and loneliness. We knew that if we could find a way to work together, there’s a real possibility we could find ways to compliment our organizations’ goals to end these conditions.”
Art with Heart
“I’ve known DeAnne for twenty years and she’s one of my best friends,” Olivo says. “Since I’ve been at the shelter the last few years, and with her leading Senior Planet, we always try to find ways to collaborate and bring our organizations together, regardless of where we’re at.” Together they decided on a touching way for the children to acknowledge the senior community – a virtual art show by the kids of posters they colored with loving messages.
For this virtual art show, children aged 5-15 chose specific coloring pages to encourage Senior Planet members, with messages like “Thinking of you!” and “You are so very loved.” As they colored and wrote messages of hope, Olivo led a discussion about encouraging others who might be feeling lonely during these uncertain times.
“There are a lot of people going through things; it’s not just young people, it’s older people that are also going through challenges and struggles,” Olivo notes. The kids have grandparents and are able to recognize that older adults need love and support. Knowing that someone is thinking about and caring about you is important in both the youth and senior population. I think those two groups are often overlooked.”
A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way
The children certainly made a difference in the Senior Planet community. As Cuellar explains, “Ernesto sent over these beautiful pictures on a day when the San Antonio team was feeling sad and heartbroken with the pandemic news. Almost instantaneously, we went from a bad day to having a really great week because of their kindness.”
Member Pat Whitty was personally touched by the young artists and their work: “It’s so inspiring to see children who can still communicate love and caring for others even in times of hardship. This artwork is inspiring. We would all do well to become like little children again.”
Crafts and Conversation
As the art and social media director at The Children’s Shelter, Mr. Olivo draws on his 20 years experience as a mentor and teacher to local children. Since quarantine, he explains, his programs have been more important than ever in keeping the children busy through creative expression – followed by a bigger conversation with them while creating the art. Often these conversations involve kindness to older people, sometimes swapping gifts and handmade crafts. This inspiring exchange of generosity between generations was what inspired the special event with Senior Planet San Antonio.
During this unprecedented time of a pandemic, hope resides in the human connection. From age 4 to 104, Olivo firmly believes that “everybody just wants a little love and compassion.” Thanks to the kind spirits and beautiful expressions of creativity from the kids at The Children’s Shelter, Senior Planet members are experiencing that love today.