Mather, Chautauqua Partnership Brings Acclaimed Education and Arts Program to Senior Living

Mather is linking up with celebrated arts and culture organization Chautauqua Institution to bring virtual programming to the masses.

The Evanston, Illinois-based senior living nonprofit on Monday announced a new partnership with the Chautauqua Institution, an education center and summer resort located next to Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state. Under the partnership, Mather is connecting thousands of older adults to the institution’s new “CHQ Assembly” video platform, and taking a step toward more closely collaborating with the 142-year-old organization.

Founded in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution has served as an important educational and cultural destination across generations. The institution spawned an adult education and social movement by the same name that saw widespread popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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The two organizations are aligned in their missions to engage people and enrich lives, according to Mather CEO Mary Leary.

“Mather serves 40,000-plus older adults each year through our cafes and neighborhood programs, and we serve a very diverse audience,” Leary told Senior Housing News. “So that’s one of the synergistic aspects that Chautauqua was very excited about; the ability to draw people in from more diverse perspectives.”

Starting Monday, older adults — including those living at non-Mather senior living communities — can register through Mather for 90 free days of access to Chautauqua’s online series of lectures, worship events, performing and visual arts and recreation programs. At its more than 2,000-acre campus in New York, Chautauqua has previously hosted performances by esteemed artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Natalie Cole, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The service costs $3.99 a month to use after the initial 90-day period, with proceeds going to Chautauqua for the development of future programs. Mather will also assist in developing discussion guides that can be used by senior living providers as a follow-up to lectures or discussions.

In return, Chautauqua patrons are invited to take part in research panels or studies put on by Mather Institute, Mather’s research arm. Already, the two organizations have agreed to explore together the motivators of healthy behaviors, and examine digital engagement among older adults during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This will enable [other] senior living communities to expand on these programs and provide robust discussions on an annual basis with residents,” Leary said. “And Chautauqua looks to Mather to provide input regarding programming going forward that would be of interest to older adults who live in senior living communities across the country.”

Mather hopes the partnership will aid other senior living providers who have shifted to virtual programming for residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m really hopeful that there will be significant interest among residents of senior housing across the country,” Leary said.

The partnership has roots in Leary’s personal life. Leary grew up in upstate New York, and she has fond memories of visiting Chautauqua many times over the years. Her sister-in-law, who now serves on the board of directors for Chautauqua, was married there. 

Leary previously had the idea to stream programming from the cultural institution to senior living communities, but didn’t have a way to bring the idea to fruition until just a few months ago.

“I brought this idea up again to my sister-in-law … and she introduced me to the president [of Chautauqua],” Leary explained. “Just a few short months later, and voila, we have our partnership.”

Leary is hopeful that the new partnership will bring older adults as much joy as the cultural institution has brought her over the years.

“It puts a huge smile on my face,” Leary said. “I’m in my happy place when I go there because it’s just so amazing.”

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