About Creative Aging
According to the Administration on Aging, by 2030 there will be approximately 72.1 million older adults, more than double the 2000 population. Shifting demographics are accompanied by a shift in arts education philosophy as the need and benefit of arts programming for older adults becomes evident. The National Center for Creative Aging noted
, “Studies have shown that challenging, participatory programs [for older adults] promote better health and disease prevention, resulting in higher levels of independence and less need for long-term care.” In response to creative aging research, arts educators are providing creative aging programs focusing on the potential of older adults to live productive, healthy lives and contribute to their communities.
Grantmakers in Aging reports
the following benefits of arts participation for older adults:
- Decreased anxiety, depression and perception of loneliness
- Increased levels of hGH (low hGH is implicated in osteoporosis, energy levels, etc.)
- Decreased harmful behaviors and reduced agitation
- Greater sense of communal identity and social bonding
- Increased quality-of-life for up to six weeks after seeing a live performance
Susan Perlstein, founder emeritus of the National Center for Creative Aging
, also cites learning new skills, meeting new people and having a new life experience as key reasons older adults join a creative aging program.
The benefits of creative aging programs also extend to opera companies and the community at large. Grantmakers in Aging identified the following benefits
of arts participation to the community:
- Enables communication across generations, income, abilities and cultures
- Contributes to preserving or restoring social capital
- Encourages civic engagement
- Lowers risk of the need for long-term care
Betsy and Herbert Thorne sing during a Stories and Song rehearsal.
Photo Credit: Jackie Schiffer
Opera is the ideal art form for creative aging programs because it matches the needs of older adults:
- Participant engagement through multiple artistic disciplines, including vocal music, instrumental music, theater, dance and visual art/design
- Cognitive challenges and intellectual stimulation to create a rich experience for older adults
- Exposure to diverse and complicated subject matters, including various time periods or historical eras and settings that frequently involve different cultures
Based on outside research and the Stories and Song
program experience, OPERA America makes the following recommendations to opera organizations:
- Take time to gain a deep knowledge of the population your program serves
- Plan events for morning or afternoon as these times tend to draw the most participants due to convenience and availability of public transportation
- Make accommodations for limited mobility or cognitive capacity (Visit: Working with Older Adults)
- Keep prices low or free as many older adults are on fixed budgets
- Teaching artists and program administrators should have a high level of positive energy and flexibility
- Facilitate activities that focus on building authentic relationships among the community of older adults (Visit: Partnerships and Community Building)
- Be prepared to build ongoing relationships with that community
For further information regarding the field of creative aging, OPERA America recommends:
ARTS FOR THE AGING
Arts for the Aging engages older adults in health improvement and life enhancement through the arts. Based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, the organization provides 500 programs annually to give hundreds of older adults bi-weekly access to arts programing.
Elders Share the Arts
This Brooklyn, NY-based organization has been recognized by the NEA for outstanding practices in creative aging. Over the last 30 years, Elders Share the Arts has served over 30,000 youth, adults and elders through its Living History Arts, Intergenerational Arts and Arts in Dementia Care programs.
Grantmakers in the Arts
Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) seeks to provide leadership and service to advance the use of philanthropic resources on behalf of arts and culture and recently identified arts and aging as a crucial arts funding topic.
The National Center for Creative Aging
Founded in 2001, The National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging. The organization strives to identify and promote best practices in creative aging.
National Guild for Community Arts Education
The National Guild for Community Arts Education supports and advances access to lifelong learning opportunities in the arts. Extensive resources on creative aging including archived webinars are available online.