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Canadian Seniors Connecting Through Art

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJune 22, 2018

One of the first lessons we learn early in life is that being creative is fun! Participating in artistic activities such as dancing, painting or playing a musical instrument allows us to tap into our creative juices and produce beautiful and rewarding results.

Luckily, creative activities aren’t just intended for children. Over the past decade, the Creative Aging Movement has swept across Canada and Europe, encouraging seniors 55+ to embrace their creative sides and pursue artistic activities. Psychology Today defines the Creative Aging Movement as “professionally run arts programs with a focus on social engagement and skills mastery.” These are not basic arts and crafts sessions, as most often the programs are led by professional teaching artists or museum educators. In other words, “it is not about making macaroni necklaces.”

The Creative Aging Movement

According to the National Centre for Creative Aging, “an understanding of the aging process” is what lies at the heart of the movement and sets Creative Aging apart from other artistic or senior-focused movements. Creative Aging focuses on the “assets” that come with aging, rather than the “deficits”; the personal advantages that occur “not in spite of aging, but because of aging.”

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It is with this senior-positive focus that Creative Aging has become so popular, and so beneficial to Canadians. According to Dr. Gene D. Cohen, author of the landmark publication “The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,there is significant evidence to suggest 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.”

The movement also teaches younger generations, as well as the artists who lead Creative Aging workshops on the importance of artistic expression and lifelong learning.

Creative Aging encompasses many different artistic endeavors, including:

  • Art-making workshops, such as drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.
  • Chair yoga
  • Creative movements such as ballet or stretching
  • Group drumming
  • Learning to play a new instrument
  • Line dancing
  • Other art programs focusing upon culture, history and the visual arts
  • Photography and photo-essay classes

The Benefits That Art Brings to Canadian Seniors

According to the National Centre for Creative Aging, there a variety of areas in which seniors experience significant improvement in their lives by participating in creative activities, including:

  • Enhanced quality of life
  • Improved health
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Reduced long-term anxiety and depression related to chronic conditions
  • Stronger networks of care

In fact, Psychology Today reports that individuals over 65 who are involved in weekly art programs experience improved health and wellness, and have “fewer doctor visits and take less medication than those without creative outlets.”

Creative Aging activities have been shown to be especially beneficial for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or a traumatic brain injury and their caregivers, as well as those who suffer from PTSD by helping to promote “resilience, retention and reintegration.”

Veterans participating in the Creative Aging Movement, have been shown to experience growth and healing because the arts allow them to express their feelings through creative activities, “without necessarily having to talk about or directly confront the trauma” they have experienced.

The Creative Aging Movement Connects Seniors Across Canada

The Creative Aging Movement has spread into cities across Canada, both in grassroots and more formalized fashions. For example, in Kelowna, British Columbia, the Rotary Centre for the Arts has introduced a five day Creative Aging Festival that offers a variety of art opportunities for the public to experience, including an art blast (a combination of art, dance and drama) contemporary dance, jazz dance, lyrical ballet and MOonhORsE dance.

London, Ontario, has also embraced the Creative Aging Movement. The London Creative Age Network has worked tirelessly since 2013 to offer creative activities, including a festival featuring art, performances, photography exhibits and workshops. Events take place across six city library branches and have included creative writing, drumming, how to blog, improv theatre, music, puppetry, readings by local poets, storytelling and vocal instruction.

From Calgary, Alberta to Montreal, Quebec, the Creative Aging Movement is taking Canada by storm and showcasing the benefits of artistic expression later in life.

Have participated in the Creative Aging Movement? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear stories from Canadian seniors in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler
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