Social and Community Context

210 - Social and Community Context: The Impact of Community Engagement, the Arts and the Outdoors on Aging Well

Tuesday, July 17
2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
Location: Palladian Room-Lobby Level

Beth Bienvenu, PhD, MA-Healthy Aging Through The Arts – The Research, Policy, and Practice of Creative Aging
Lesha Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH-Healthy Aging in Parks: Innovative Strategies for Arthritis Management Through Parks and Recreation
Susan Shifrin, PhD-There Is No Path Back, Only The Way Forward: Creating a New Paradigm for Empowerment at the Intersections of Arts, Dementia, and Healthcare
Mary Jared, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC-Building Health Literacy Through Community Engagement

Community engagement and nature and art programming has long been associated with healthy aging for older adults. While these benefits can be attributed to social engagement and a sense of purpose, they can also be attributed to the creative process itself – the physical and cognitive benefits of dance and music, the social value of theater, the stimulation of memory through music or poetry, and the restorative effects of artistic therapies. Programing implemented in parks and recreation centers provides innovative outlets for patients to experience nature while addressing chronic disease.

This panel of healthy aging experts will describe community-, nature-, and art-based programming and the benefits each has on cognitive and physical health. More specifically, the panel will discuss the research, policy, and practice implications of such programming along with strategies to maximize the availability, reach, and sustainability of community and creative interventions to support and empower older adults.

Presented by AARP Foundation

Learning Objectives:

Beth Bienvenu, PhD, MA

Accessibility Director
National Endowment for the Arts

Dr. Beth Bienvenu is the Director of the Office of Accessibility at the National Endowment for the Arts, where she manages the NEA's technical assistance and advocacy work devoted to making the arts accessible for people with disabilities, older adults, veterans, and people in institutional settings. She provides guidance and support to state arts agency staff and professionals working the fields of arts access, creativity and aging, arts and health, universal design, and arts in corrections. Prior to her work at the NEA, she worked as a Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), where she analyzed public and private sector policies and practices related to the employment for people with disabilities. She also served as an adjunct professor for George Mason University’s Master of Arts in Arts Management program, where she taught courses in arts policy and comparative international arts policy, and she has a background in performing arts management. Dr. Bienvenu has master's degrees in sociology and arts administration from Indiana University and a doctorate in organizational leadership from The University of Oklahoma.


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Lesha E. K Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH

Health and Wellness Program Manager
National Recreation and Park Association

Lesha Spencer-Brown is a Health and Wellness Program Manager at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), working to improve the health and wellness of older adults through parks and recreation. She currently manages NRPA's Healthy Aging in Parks initiative that aims to increase physical activity opportunities for older adults, primarily through the dissemination of evidence-based programs, community and social engagement opportunities and built environment enhancements that support active lifestyles for older adults. Lesha received her Master of Public Health (MPH) in Community and Family Health- Socio-Health Sciences from the University of South Florida in 2014, and has over 8 years of experience in the field of public health, specifically in health promotion, disease prevention and social determinants of health. Prior to working at NRPA, Lesha served as a Community Health Worker (CHW) Program Coordinator, working to improve care coordination for individuals affected by chronic diseases.


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Susan Shifrin, PhD

Founder and Executive Director
ARTZ Philadelphia

Susan Shifrin is the founding director of ARTZ Philadelphia, a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of people living with dementia and their loved ones through arts- and culture-centered programming. She is an art historian, educator, and arts accessibility advocate. She received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College and has worked on the curatorial and education staffs of a number of large and small museums up and down the East coast. As a scholar, curator, director of museum education, and as a teacher in higher education Shifrin has focused on the interactions of objects and viewers within a social context. As a curator and museum educator, she has sought to facilitate viewer inclusion and participation. And as a teacher of college students, her approach is student-centered and discussion-centered. During the last decade, Susan's arts-based outreach efforts have turned to engaging and serving community members living with disabilities, including those living with the diagnosis and experiences of dementia. Viewer inclusion and participation are the keys to all that she does.

Shifrin was one of only twelve people worldwide to receive certification in 2016 from the Memory Bridge training program ( for professionals working with people living with dementia. She has organized and participated in a number of conferences and symposia relating to arts accessibility and the role of arts in the lives of people with chronic illness and disabilities. She is currently at work on an edited volume of essays titled The Museum As Experience (forthcoming, Fall 2019).


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Mary Christine Jared, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC

Project Director, Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program
Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, NYU Meyers College of Nursing

Mary Christine Jared, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC, from the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing is a dynamic, goal-driven and accomplished nursing professional with 27+ years of experience and success in clinical, research and administrative roles in urban health care settings. She is a Board-Certified Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and is currently a PhD student in Nursing Theory and Research at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Ms. Jared has extensive experience leading multi-disciplinary healthcare teams and inspiring and empowering diverse groups of clinical and community partners to achieve shared goals. She has been recognized for her leadership, innovation and critical thinking skills. Ms. Jared is currently employed full-time at the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing as the Clinical-Community Program Manager for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) HRSA grant. Her research interests include promoting health and wellness and age-senstive care for community dwelling older adults and examining childhood trauma and its impact on adverse health outcomes in adults.


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Renée Bouvion, MPH

Acting Regional Health Administrator
HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health-Region 10

Renée Bouvion is the Acting Regional Health Administrator for Region 10. She provides strategic direction and operational oversight to the regional office covering the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Ms. Bouvion and her team work with a broad range of public health and community stakeholders to address HHS and regional priorities through partnership and collaboration.

Ms. Bouvion joined the regional office in 2002 as a public health advisor. She became the Deputy Regional Health Administrator in September 2017. During her time in Region 10, she has established key relationships with local organizations to carry out projects related to women’s health and chronic disease prevention. Prior to joining HHS, Ms. Bouvion held a position as a research analyst with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. She received a Master of Public Health from the University of Washington in 2001. Prior to graduate school, she held various positions in the recruitment division of Peace Corps in Seattle, WA and Washington, DC. Her interest in public health began while she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa from 1992 to 1994.


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210 - Social and Community Context: The Impact of Community Engagement, the Arts and the Outdoors on Aging Well

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