As Americans are living longer and healthier lives researchers have discovered that the aging brain is far more plastic than previously believed, and that structured learning — especially through the arts — can improve cognitive functioning and enhance the quality of life. A landmark 2006 study by Dr. Gene Cohen, The Creativity and Aging Study, demonstrated that professionally conducted arts-learning programs promoted better health and disease prevention among older adults who actively engaged in them.
Despite the growth of the creative aging movement (which the Cohen study catalyzed) negative stereotypes of older adults and aging itself are pervasive. Embracing older adults as learners and creators is a new challenge for all sectors. Training, coaching, seeding programs, documentation, evaluation and advocacy are critical to maintain momentum. In addition, social isolation — broadly defined as a lack of meaningful contacts with others — is a significant risk factor for poor health status and increased mortality.
Older adults are at risk for social isolation because of the natural series of losses that accompany aging: retirement, loss of a spouse, kids moving away, as well as the onset of health problems. All of these increase the need for a strong foundation of social relationships — something that creative aging programs intrinsically provide.
Widely recognized as an important contributor to positive aging efforts, creative aging practitioners promote the beneficial and powerful role of arts education for older adults.