June 10 – 14, 2014 marked the first National Leadership Exchange & Conference on Creative Aging in Washington, DC.
The conference was called “The Creative Age: Exploring Potential in the Second Half of Life” and was presented by the National Centre for Creative Aging (NCCA) a centre founded in 2001 which is “dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging and to developing programs that build on this understanding”.
Some takeaway messages from the conference included that participation in the arts can have a positive impact on quality of life and that the capacity for new learning and creativity only continues to grow as we age. These messages harkened back to the work done by American psychiatrist Dr. Gene Cohen.
In 2006 Dr. Gene Cohen published the results of his Creativity and Aging Study, which compared two groups of participants, one that attended weekly art-based programming and another that did not. The results showed that those who attended art programs reported better health, fewer doctors visits and less medication use, more positive responses on mental health measures and more involvement in overall activities when compared with those who did not attend art programs.
Given what is known about the role of the arts in health and health promotion, conference delegates shared best practices in art program design and implementation. This was done through case studies of community arts programs that successfully engaged older adults in creative endeavours and creative expression. Programs like those offered through Lifetime Arts, a nonprofit organization which encourages “creative aging by promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs in organizations, prepares artists to develop the creative capacity of older adults learners and fosters lifelong learning in and through the arts…” The Lifetime Arts’ Libraries Project offers professionally taught art classes in 22 community library systems across 12 states.
Speaking of community-based art programs, it’s almost that time of year again. On September 26, 27 & 28 Canada celebrates Culture Days, a weekend to discover and participate in a variety of free arts programming in every community. Find an activity near you and get creative!