AS THE BABY BOOMER GENERATION MATURES, new views of aging are emerging. Rather than perceiving aging as a period of inevitable decline and loss, "positive aging" proponents celebrate growing older as a time of life ripe with the potential for personal growth, enhanced well-being and civic engagement. Service providers, educators, government agencies, foundations and community organizations across the country are responding to these new views and transforming their services accordingly. "Livable communities," "age-friendly cities," "encore career" options and efforts to revitalize senior centers are just a few initiatives that reflect this national trend.
Across the country, creative aging programs are helping older adults (in and out of institutions) to foster new relationships with other elders, caregivers, family members and the community. They are breaking down the chronic isolation and passive existence of many institutionalized elders. For the frail elderly, the arts unlock expressive abilities and help them to reconnect to their surroundings and to others.
The field of creative aging focuses on the beneficial and powerful role of the arts in enhancing the quality of life for older adults and has gained significant recognition as an important contributor to positive aging efforts. Researchers are discovering that the aging brain is far more plastic than previously understood, and that structured learning - especially in the arts - can improve cognitive functioning and quality of life. A landmark 2006 study by Dr. Gene Cohen, known as The Creativity and Aging Study, found true health promotion and disease prevention effects for older adults who were actively engaged in professionally conducted arts learning programs. For those of us who are arts practitioners - this research proves what we've always known to be true - the arts are good for you.