When I tell people I meet that my passion and current position involves dancing, singing and storytelling with elders and other under served populations, I tend to get a lot of perplexed looks. As a young Millennial with an almost-completed major in Arts Management, many of my peers are going on to become marketing professionals, social media managers, arts education specialists and volunteer coordinators in arts nonprofits (which are all very much needed) but, I’ve not yet heard of many going on to work with elders or in the field of creative aging.

I’ve been thinking about problems facing our elderly population ever since I decided to take a job working in an assisted living center in an attempt to pay rent through college. I was lucky to work in a home-like environment that strove to make long-term care less institutional, but still saw many of the elders I cared for struggling with isolation, loss of independence and depression. This ignited my fierce idealism, and I started seeking out ways to improve end of life quality. While not being trained in the healthcare model, I sought to improve elders lives through the arts.

At the time, I was also searching for a full-time semester-long internship to finalize my BA degree and help me gain valuable experience in the real world of the arts nonprofit. One night while trying to find “my ideal arts nonprofit” for a class assignment, I was at my wits end after not being able to find any arts nonprofits that primarily served elders. I could find health nonprofits addressing health concerns of elders and their families, and arts nonprofits that occasionally did arts and crafts with elders, but each missed the mark. Finally, I stumbled across a blog post written about the work of Kairos Alive! and immediately knew THIS is what I was seeking! I contacted them, set up a brief interview- and before I knew it was finalized to be their intern for the next 5 months.

I don’t state it lightly that this semester with Kairos Alive! has been the most important learning experience of my college career. I have been stretched not only as an Arts Manager, but as a person. I’ve become an advocate for the idea that allowing people of all ages and abilities to participate in dance, music, story and theater in an encouraging environment facilitated by experienced artists can be a catalyst for improved health, well being, and quality of life. I’ve seen transformations of elders (and people of all ages) as they come alive and have, in many ways, become more alive myself.

I’ve held many hands, heard multiple life stories, have danced with those who “couldn’t dance” or were wheelchair-bound, have cried and seen others cry over a song that touched a long forgotten memory, have laughed, learned and gained many new friends during my time at Kairos Alive!

I conclude my internship with the firm belief that the team at Kairos Alive! hold at least one solution to solving “the aging problem” by bringing joy, life and kindness through dance, music and story to everyone they encounter, leaving anyone they encounter (including myself) happier, healthier and more alive.

So please, take my word for it and check out an upcoming Intergenerational Dance Hall™ and see what they’re all about. You might find yourself more alive after it’s over.


Bri Ristow

Kairos Alive! Intern

Bachelor of Arts UW Stevens Point ’16

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