Celebrating the Voices of Low-Income Older Adults

Being Heard is a poetry writing program that celebrates the voices, stories, and imaginations of low-income older adults in Centre County. Meeting for 12 weeks each fall at Centre Crest Nursing Home in Bellefonte, Being Heard is designed especially for low-income adults with physical and cognitive disabilities. Participants write collaboratively, share stories, study the techniques of poetry together, and put their minds to everything from farmhouses, chickadees, city streets, and the night sky to questions about heaven and death, immigration and American identity, disability and deity, art and love.

The program culminates with a public reading and celebration of work created during the semester, which doubles as a book- and broadside-release party. This soulful event is attended by Centre Crest residents; families and friends; local elected officials; and the wider arts language arts community.

Being Heard aims to do three things: 1) To empower participants to think of themselves as people with valued voices in their community who have creative agency and knowledge of poetry craft; 2) to foster social connectedness and a vehicle for communicating with others in creative ways; and 3) to foster awareness and respect in our community for the creative energies of older adults. We achieve the first two goals throughout the course of the program itself, as participants grow to identify as poets and to feel deeply heard. The last goal, which involves lifting up program participants’ voices in the community and sharing widely the fruits of the program, is the one we currently need help from the Awesome Foundation to reach.

Funded by State College, PA (September 2019)