October 2019 LeadingAge Catalyst

Aldersgate’s Acting Our Age Project

Charlotte, NC

Acting Our Age project Catalyst Oct 2019
The Acting Our Age participants, left to right: Andie Payet, Bob Payet, Betty Cowan, George Moffatt, Dot Horne, Norman Pollock, and June Connerton. Photo by Jay Thomas.


Excellence in Resident Engagement

Storytelling has been a constant in human history. It must have taken root soon after humans’ development of spoken language, and it has always been an important component—and often the main component—of the communication of history and the transmission of culture.

In the world of long-term services and supports, storytelling is having a renaissance. It’s an important part of countless intergenerational programs; it plays a part in programs for those with dementia, including art-focused programs; it’s used as a mechanism to help define person-centered care for new residents; it can help people work through grief; and it can even offer a comforting and informal type of group therapy.

In Charlotte, NC, Aldersgate, a life plan community, has taken storytelling-as-resident-engagement a step beyond the usual. It has turned a program designed to draw out residents’ reflections on life—a profound experience in its own right for the participants—into a theater production as well.

For the program’s creativity, and for the residents’ profound honesty and hard work, “Acting Our Age: A Century of America in Seven Voices” is the LeadingAge Catalyst for October 2019.

In the podcast episode below, listen as Aldersgate COO Jeff Weatherhead tells the story of Acting Our Age, and muses about what might come next.

Watch a great 5-minute video that includes excerpts from the stage production and interviews with participants.

For more on the program and its participants, see this Charlotte Observer article. There is an article on the Aldersgate website as well.


1:50 Origin of the Acting Our Age concept

2:50 Description of the program

5:00 How the idea of a theater production arose

6:10 The gerontologist and the theater producer

7:30 Who were the residents that participated?

10:20 How mountains of content were converted into a stage production

12:00 How the residents came to terms with sharing very personal stories

16:25 More about the stage production

19:10 How will these stories be disseminated?

21:40 Thoughts about the power of stories

Gene Mitchell is editor of LeadingAge magazine.