Know your nonprofits: Creative Aging

The staff at Creative Aging knows art experiences are incredibly impactful for seniors, from promoting memory health to enhancing the immune system. The nonprofit's programs bring artists into senior spaces to share their creativity and enrich lives.
 Creative Aging is a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring the arts into the lives of Mid-South seniors. That can translate into bringing programs to places seniors live, like nursing homes, assisted living facilities or retirement communities or it can mean taking programs to where they meet, like senior centers and adult daycare programs.
The organization designs its programs for the overall benefit of older adults. Based on findings from “The Creativity and Aging Study” conducted at Georgetown University and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, seniors who participate in arts programs have a higher overall rating of physical health, as measured by fewer doctor visits, less medication use, fewer falls and less self-reported depression than those who do not participate in such programs.
“Every one of our programs is unique in that no other organization does what we do,” said Meryl Klein, Executive Director of Creative Aging. “We pay engaging and entertaining artists to perform for very appreciative senior audiences. Our current list of includes more than 60 artists who are interested in serving older adults and those with special needs.”
“Numerous articles attest to the value of arts-based interventions for older adults in terms of their sense of self, mood, cognitive functioning, behavior and quality of life,” added Terrie Kirksey, Creative Aging Assistant Director. “Doctors and researchers believe that keeping an active mind may help people withstand the ravages of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia or, at very least, delay their onset. Further research suggests active seniors may also be less likely to experience declines in motor skills like strength, speed and dexterity.”
The artists engaged by Creative Aging believe what science and research is now routinely proving – arts experiences positively impact the senior community. Artistic engagement exercises the brain, promotes memory health and enhances the immune system. Social connection through the arts decreases stress, depression, loneliness and isolation. And creative activity enables expression and communication, especially for verbally challenged individuals.
Senior individuals, who are “aging in place” are beyond Creative Aging’s current reach. In response, Creative Aging is offering an inspiring new service – the Senior Arts Series to connect with older adults who are living independently.
The series consists of five two-hour artistic and social events. The programming focuses on music, which Klein refers to as a universal connector for humans at all stages of development and decline. Segments from other artistic disciplines, including dance, theater and literature, are also integrated into the musical performances. The basic idea is to stimulate creativity and connection within the audience through programming that is interesting and pleasing to senior generations.
“The artists are also pleased to perform for a population that is often new to them,” explained Klein. “They are interested in learning from seniors about how the city’s musical landscape has changed over the years and how music has impacted the lives of their senior audience. The audience, in turn, uplifts the artists through performance experiences that range from appreciation to adoration. The intersection between Creative Aging artists and Creative Aging audiences produces a win-win from every perspective – a real source of pride for the organization,” said Klein.
As another means of public outreach, Gay Hanna, Ph.D., M.F.A., Executive Director of the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), will be the keynote speaker for a program called “Aging Creatively,” which will be presented Tuesday, Nov. 17 at The Community Foundation, 1900 Union, from 8:45 a.m. to noon. Dr. Hanna is an arts administration leader with 30 years management experience in the arts, education and health related program services. For more information, click here.
Interested in working with senior adults? To learn more about being a volunteer for Creative Aging, visit Volunteer Memphis to see a list of available opportunities.  

Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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