Research shows both the acts of creative expression and social interaction are vital to the mental and physical well being of senior citizens. According to Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD of the Center for Aging, Health & Humanities, George Washington University, “Expressing ourselves can actually improve health, both mentally and physically.”
Dr. Cohen’s research claims the following benefits of creative activity:
• Creativity reinforces essential connections between brain cells, including those responsible for memory.
• Creativity strengthens morale. It alters the way we respond to problems and sometimes allows us to transcend them. Keeping a fresh perspective makes us emotionally resilient.
• Challenging the brain can relieve sleep and mood disorders.
• Reading, writing and word games increase one’s working vocabulary and help to fend off forgetfulness.
• Capitalizing on creativity promotes a positive outlook and sense of well being which boosts the immune system and fights disease.
• Having an active, creative life makes it easier to face adversity, including the loss of a spouse.
Lifetime Arts is a wonderful program aimed at engaging senior citizens with the arts in public libraries in New York, Boston, Dallas and Miami.
According to Lifetime Arts’ President and CEO, Maura O’Malley “people come together around the learning facilitated by a professional teaching artist, and these artists are able to create an environment where adults can learn new skills and build community. People can take risks around learning, they’re encouraged, and their achievements are honored and shared. (These programs) have an enormous impact on people’s lives.”
As people age they experience loss; they stop working, kids leave home and sometimes they lose a spouse. Lifetime Arts’ creative programs bring people together to learn and share new things. Maura O’Malley says, ”This approach changes the way people think about aging, away from the negative view of aging to a positive view. One where life is ripe with opportunity and challenge and engagement.”
In partnership with White Plains Public Library and Westchester Library System, The Bristal hosted a Lifetime Arts’ Creative Aging program to create a “Box of Memories” with local artist Kim McCormack. Click to view photos from the culminating event.