“[People] do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes
Last Wednesday I attended an all-day seminar at MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis. The topic was “Arts and Aging” and was led by Artsage, a Twin Cities organization that defines itself as “a catalyst for the field of arts and aging.”
The seminar, attended by over two hundred people, was fun, educational, and inspiring. We learned how older adults discover satisfaction, meaning and joy through creative self-expression, whether it be through music, painting, dancing, quilting, poetry or something else. In one example of the success of this program, one senior facility went from offering Bingo five times a week to only two. The residents were more interested in creative self-expression than being passively entertained.
And this is exactly what I love about this movement for older adults. The emphasis is on involvement, expression, and creativity, not just entertainment. By creating and sharing their gifts, older adults discover meaning and joy in giving of themselves, and the release of endorphins, stimulated through creativity, elevates their mood as well.
We’ve learned a lot about the aging brain over the years. The research of Dr. Gene Cohen, who found a direct link between creative expression and healthy aging, has been especially helpful. Through his research, Dr. Cohen discovered that rather than thinking in terms of left brain/right brain, as we do in our youth, the changes in the brain of older adults enable them to think across the two brain hemispheres. In other words, the brains of older adults think more integratively.
I am very interested in this field and I hope that the efforts of Artsage and others will continue to grow as they provide older adults with the opportunity to become engaged in creative expression.