Makerspace Workshop A Summer Success Story

Old Bridge, NJ – July 20, 2018 – You might think that a nursing home is the last place you will find an innovative workshop where people can create works of art, on their own schedule, using some pretty high-tech gadgets.

But think again. Because that’s exactly what’s going on at Reformed Church Home in Old Bridge this summer.

The brainchild of Kayla Carucci, a Middletown NJ resident and PhD student at the University of Michigan, “Creations with Kayla” has found great traction among RCH residents as they explore traditional crafting using some pretty cutting-edge technologies – ones that might even surprise some millennials. And the best part is, they are creating mainly on their own, with little instruction from Kayla herself.

The concept is known in popular culture as a “makerspace,” but Kayla has added her own spin by applying the fundamentals of the maker movement in the senior, long term care setting. Her goal is to determine if the well-being of long term care residents can be improved by offering self-directed sessions using low and high-tech tools to create whatever the participant chooses.

Kayla has brought this novel program to Reformed Church Home thanks to a grant from the University of Michigan School of Information. She hopes to not only gather the data needed for her dissertation on the same topic, but also to see how best to implement makerspaces in real world, senior care communities.

“I hope to empower residents to make the decision to come at their convenience and create to their heart's desire. It’s a chance to do something different and challenging. There’s no reason seniors can’t take advantage of spaces that are in place in libraries, schools, and commercial settings,” Kayla said.

Indeed, the makerspace model has been around since the early 2000s, fueled mostly by an interest in computer science and robotics. It has evolved to become a hands on learning environment for children, DIY-ers, crafters, and entrepreneurs. Equipment used in some makerspaces include 3D printers, IPads, digital embroidery equipment, and even sewing machines, all of which are in place at Reformed Church Home for the residents to explore. But some low tech things are available as well, like knitting needles, yarn, squishy circuits, and button makers.

According to Kate Shepard, Executive Director at Reformed Church Home, “We are thrilled to have been chosen as the pilot facility for Kayla’s research, which offers our residents a unique opportunity to try new and challenging creative pursuits. Through interviews with participants and personal observations, Kayla will collect the feedback needed to fine tune her ideas and adjust the program going forward.”

“I could do this all day, I really enjoy it,” says Mary Puskar, an assisted living resident at the Home. “I’m learning so many things, like candle making and how to paint on an IPad using a stylus. We even digitally embroidered my name on a sweater so I wouldn’t misplace it again.”

Nursing home resident Sabina McCarthy agrees. “I have arthritis and can’t write or do much with my hands, but I can design something on the 3D printer and watch it print! I can finally do crafts again.”

With a BFA in Photography and Video, a Masters in Information, and a lifelong interest in crafting, Kayla is well-suited to lead the charge. Once her 5-year PhD program is completed, she hopes to teach at a research university to explore the interactions among people, information, and technology in greater depth. In the meantime, residents are embracing these new technologies and their new-found talents thanks to Kayla’s pop-up makerspace at RCH.

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