Friday, August 7, 2020

IIA participants stay engaged during COVID by making and donating “Connectivity Quilt” to hospice

By Lorraine Glowczak

Saint Joseph’s College Institute for Integrative Aging (IIA) was officially launched last May 2019 and its mission is to provide rural older adults access to a creative, age-friendly and intergenerational learning environment with the goal to combat social isolation and loneliness. Since then, a number of Sebago Lake Region area residents have become involved in the variety of on-campus activities provided by IIA.

The institute’s goal and mission, however, have required extra innovative actions during the past six months when social isolation has taken on a new spin during the pandemic. To maintain social connectedness while adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions, IIA has created several online Zoom-based projects and gatherings.

The Institute for Integrative Aging
participants chose a Maine theme
for the 'Connectivity Quilt' since
this is the state's bicentennial
year. Upon completion, it was
donated to Gosnell Memorial
Hospice House in Scarborough.
“We have tried a number of online activities and found what works and the best times/days that seems to be the most popular,” IIA Director, Heather DiYenno said. “We currently provide a weekly ‘Coffee and Conversation’ on Tuesday mornings, a monthly book group, online Ukulele sessions as well as Silver Sneakers® exercise programs.”

One project that drew excitement and participation with IIA members was the making of a quilt.

“The college sponsored the cost of the fabric and over 10 individuals joined in to create two squares each,” DiYenno said. “We had participants as far away as Yarmouth and even had a few individuals who never made a quilt before, so we had a very good time creating together and connecting with each other.”

And thus, the purpose of the quilt project and the project’s name, “Connectivity Quilt.”

“The participants opted on a Maine theme since this is the state’s bicentennial year,” DiYenno said. “Each individual made what they wanted so we had a variety of patches that included images of chickadees, moose, buoys, lobsters and pine trees to name just a few.”

One of the quilt creators was Judy Davis who currently lives in Gray and is a Saint Joseph’s College alumna.

The “Connectivity Quilt” helped her stay engaged with others during the recent loss of her husband as well as after time spent in cardiac rehabilitation.

“We would have been married 59 years this month,” Davis said. “Everything has been a challenge in recent months and to be able to participate in this project has made all the difference.”

It took three weeks from the start of the quilt project to finish. Once the individual quilt patches were completed, DiYenno collected all the squares and machine- quilted them together. It was decided among the Connectivity Quilt participants to donate the finished project to Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough on July 9, 2019.

In addition to Davis, others who participated in the “Connectivity Quilt” project included Stef Bubier, Jeannine Plourde, Becky Thompson, Judy Heggeman, Nancy Fowles, Julie Smythe, Dianne McCarthy, Bonnie Hawkes, and IIA Operations Assistant, Jen Greslick.

For many IIA participants, much is gained as a result of the weekly and monthly programs and workshops.

“I began exercising in December in the Silver Sneakers® program and was just beginning to get involved with the Institute for Integrative Aging before COVID began,” Davis said. “They were so compassionate and supportive. It is a place where you can be you – no matter what. They offer so much, and you get to do things at your own pace. If people are afraid to join in – they really shouldn’t. I would really encourage people to join all that the Institute has to offer.”

There is a discussion among IIA members to create another quilt. There is also discussion about creating a Pen Pal project, too. If you are interested in taking part in one of these ventures, or if you have ideas for other similar projects, please let Director Heather DiYenno know at

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