Cathy DeWitt-Arts in Aging

Arts & Aging

Cathy’s mission is to share her deep experience as a pioneer in the field of using arts in the aging and healing processes. A successful and eclectic professional musician, Cathy DeWitt has shared the stage and airwaves with the likes of Pete Seeger, Rob Bargad, Dave Frishberg, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, and many more. A leader in the field of arts and aging, she has been the Musician in Residence and music program leader for UF Health/Shands Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida since 1994, playing at bedside, teaching and training volunteers, writing grants, and acquiring instruments (including two grand pianos), and hosting and coordinating concerts throughout the hospital. She is a Certified Arts & Aging Artist Trainer and was on the speaker’s bureau for the National Center for Creative Aging.

Cathy provides training sessions, workshops, keynotes, and seminars at universities, geriatric facilities, palliative care facilities, arts & healing events, hospitals, conferences, spiritual gatherings, and retreats. As a consultant, her clients include Legend Senior Living at the Windsor, Vanderbilt University, Tidewater Arts, Virginia Tech, San Diego Hospice, Hospice in Albany, Oregon; Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and the Royal Hospital in London. She has presented both educational and experiential programs and is known for her ability to create music for oral history, theatre, visual arts, movement, and dance workshops.

Along with numerous individual songwriting awards, including two from the 2006 Unisong International Songwriting Contest (with entries from 90 countries), she is the winner of a Fetzer Grant for her Healing Music Program, a Florida Arts Council Individual Artist Enhancement Grant, the National League of Penwomen Branch Award for Music (Gainesville 2005); a Posi-Music Award Finalist in 2016, and Gainesville’s Musician of the Year Award (2010).

While participating in several research projects involving the healing power of music, she became particularly interested in its effects on people with dementia and memory disorders. Her work with creativity and aging began in 2003 at the Florida Center for Creative Aging, where she coordinated events and produced their newsletter. In 2006 and 2008 she helped coordinate and facilitate the NEA/NIH-funded Vital Visionaries Program at the University of Florida, bringing community elders together with medical students to share arts activities in a museum setting. Since then she is even more active in the Arts & Aging movement. She has been guest faculty and lecturer for many institutes and organizations, including UF Colleges of Medicine, Geriatrics, Nursing, Fine Arts, and Education; Oak Hammock Retirement Community at UF, Alterra House, the Alzheimer’s Association, VSA, Veterans Administration hospitals and senior centers.

In addition to customizing her seminars for specific needs, Cathy offers several well-designed workshops that can be both educational and experiential, including Melody and Memory, Modes and Moods, The Value of the Arts at End of Life, and Creating a Successful Arts and Aging Program.

Contact Cathy to have her conduct training sessions or present a keynote at your facility.

“As the Director of Volunteer Services at Hospice of Marion County (Ocala, Florida), I asked Cathy to present a full day of training and demonstration on the topic of the therapeutic value of music in the health care setting. In June 2011, Cathy presented techniques to hospice employees and volunteers, which was followed by a demonstration at a nearby assisted living facility.

Her knowledge on this topic is exceptional and Cathy worked diligently to tailor her presentation based on the needs and interests of the audience. Cathy is a highly respected and accomplished musician, song writer and performer. But in addition, she knows how music can be utilized in the health care setting to heal the heart and soul of patients who perhaps do not respond to any other stimuli.

During her presentation to the employees and volunteers, Cathy effectively presented content on the topic and included several experiential exercises with musical instruments that she had brought with her. At the assisted living facility, Cathy not only performed for the patients but also encouraged them to play the instruments and participate in sing-alongs. I saw first hand how some patients, who had come into the room lethargic and disengaged, began to brighten up, become alert and fully engaged. It was a joyful experience for all involved.”

Kathleen M. Berning

Hospice of Marion County

“Cathy was our invited guest speaker at the Oak Hammock annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s kick-off event. What she brought to this year’s event was a topic everyone could relate to: music and memory. She wove together facts about the disease and data about music and how the arts affect patients. She told remarkable stories about recoveries from comas and years of non-speaking. She conveyed to her listeners the power of melody and interwove her singing and piano playing to involve the audience. She is so personable, accessible, and straightforward that everyone could relate to what she was saying and immediately apply the concepts to themselves.

“Although we have had research scientists also speak in the past and many medical doctors as well, Cathy spoke to the group as someone who has lived with a family member who has suffered from dementia. She has the ability to connect with people whether she is performing, singing, or speaking. I can recommend her for any type of speaking engagement as I know she will bring her many and varied talents to anything she does.”

Star Bradbury

Director of Life Planning, Oak Hammock at the University of Florida

More About Cathy

As an expert in the field Cathy was commissioned by VSA Florida and the Department of State to write and edit “Piece by Piece: Building Successful Arts in Healthcare Programs.” This handbook is based on multiple consultations with healthcare facilities throughout the state. Since then she continues to present workshops and seminars on music and healing for universities, arts agencies, hospitals, and eldercare facilities. Her clients include Vanderbilt University, San Diego Hospice, the Alzheimer’s Association, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, and Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and the Royal Hospital in London. She is a certified trainer for the National Center for Creative Aging. Cathy is the winner of a Fetzer Grant for her Healing Music Programs, the Florida Arts Council Individual Artist Enhancement Grant, the National League of Penwomen Award for Music, and the 2010 Musician of the Year in her hometown of Gainesville, Florida.

Contact Cathy to bring her to your hospital, hospice, elder care, or any location that needs a boost in setting up a music or arts in healing program.

Cathy with patient on psaltery
Cathy DeWitt-Testimonial
Hands on harp