What is Creative Aging?

Lifetime Arts enriches the lives of older adults through arts education for adults 55 and older. We do this by promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs in organizations that serve older adults; preparing teaching artists to work with older adults; and fostering lifelong learning our communities. There’s no getting around the fact that we all age. The good news is that aging creatively — through the arts — holds the promise of enjoying and embracing the process.

An Emerging, Positive Practice

For just over ten years now, creative aging pioneers have been catalyzing cross-sector collaborations and building an infrastructure that is yielding new research on the benefits of arts engagement. At the same time they have been designing, testing and sharing innovative best practices and improving the lives of thousands of older adults. Creative aging in its many forms is hopeful, often transformative and usually fun.

The Arts Are Good For You

With his 2006 landmark publication “The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., demonstrated that participation in activities that foster creative engagement and skills mastery in a social environment has positive psychological, physical and emotional health benefits for older adults. Independent evaluations* of Lifetime Arts’ work confirm that our creative aging programs improve the lives of older adults and build the capacity of the organizations that serve them.

*By Ravazzin Center on Aging (2012) & Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry (2013)

Who Are Older Adults?

We define this population as adults aged 55-100, and we view them as whole,intelligent, creative, and social people. This vast age range includes several generations, i.e., Younger and Older Baby Boomers, The Silent Generation and the G.I. Generation. Believe it or not, people at the older end of Generation X will enter this demographic when they begin to turn 55 within the next 10 years. The members of these groups have different tastes and cultural reference points, but they all benefit from tapping into their creative capacity and they have fun doing it.

The Elder Boom

Increased longevity is only one part of the bio-demographic changes affecting social and economic life. The so-called “elder boom” has just begun. Older people comprise approximately 13 percent of our population today, but by the middle of the new century, more than 20 percent of the American population will be over 65, and 5 percent will be over 85. In some regions and states the proportions will be even greater.

Why is this happening?

The reasons for these changes are many, but most scholars point to three primary factors:
  1. advances in medicine and medical technology;
  2. improvements in nutrition and public health over the course of the twentieth century; and
  3. increased understanding of the behavioral and environmental factors affecting health outcomes for older adults.