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Caring Clown

Caring Clowns logo

Project Team Members: Melanie Santarossa, Lynda Del Grande, Denise Shanker

The Caring Clown program is a unique non-credit course series offered through Programs for 50+ and Community Engagement at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. This program is for adults 50+ who want to make a difference by bringing joy, laughter, and fun into the lives of long-term care residents. Through three courses, students are trained in clowning techniques and achieve an understanding of aging and the dementia process. In addition, working closely with long-term care homes, a practicum provides an opportunity for the Caring Clown to gain experience.

How does your project remove barriers for people with disabilities and/or aging populations?

The Caring Clown program is open to women and men of diverse cultural backgrounds who are 50+ in age, many of whom may also have disabilities themselves. Students report that the program helps to enhance their self-esteem because it provides a meaningful way for them to give back to those living in long-term care facilities. As Caring Clowns, volunteers visit residents who are often very isolated, many of whom are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Where did the idea for your project come from?

The idea for this project came about because its impact made it necessary to consider its future sustainability. The City of Toronto’s long-term care homes recognize and welcome the contribution Caring Clowns make to their recreational programming. The feedback from recreational therapists who work most closely with Clowns, as well as volunteer coordinators for the various homes, reports that they find the program to be highly regarded by the residents and their families.

What are the goals and objectives of your project?

The main goals and objectives of our project were to establish a tuition waiver that would provide financial assistance to those enrolled in the Caring Clown program, develop new print and digital promotional materials to describe the program, and book community outreach events wherein graduates could promote the program.

Who is the target audience for your project?

The Caring Clown program was developed for older adults 50+.

What did you and your team gain from being involved in the Accessibility Project?

Our involvement in the Accessibility Project allowed us to develop a better understanding of how to promote the program, to gain more involvement from Caring Clown graduates, and to establish a sustainability plan.

What are your future plans for your project?

The results of the project will be incorporated into future Caring Clown programming within Programs for 50+ and Community Engagement.