Continuing to Learn, Create, and Have Fun

“I wonder if I could have been an artist.” “I used to love to go out dancing.” “I am retired and looking for something fun to do.” “Will I get a chance to tell my life story?” “I always wanted to go back to school, but the idea of being in classes with people so much younger than I am now is not appealing.” “What will my life’s ‘third act’ be like?”

Have you noticed a surge in the release of films and television series featuring older adults? It is no wonder. The Baby Boomers are turning 65 and soon there will be 77 million people in this age group in the United States alone (nearly 25% of the country’s population), and they are not going to do it quietly — which is a good thing for them and for the rest of us, too.

Today’s older adults (people aged 55 and older) are younger than ever. Most of them are active and healthy. They are obliterating tired stereotypes about aging, leaving them by the side of the road as they don their cycling gear, run their marathons, travel to new locales and continue to work (for various reasons) past the usual retirement age.

Lifetime Arts, Inc. has had this figured out for the better part of the last decade; they understand that one key to improving the lives of older adults is active participation in the arts, and that libraries are natural hosts for this kind of programming.

While there are several natural partners for this kind of thing, public libraries have been the quickest ones to the party having partnered with Lifetime Arts to offer fine arts workshops taught by professional teaching artists in a range of creative disciplines — visual, performing and literary arts. As a result of participating in these 8-10 week “creative aging” workshops, people learn new skills, express themselves creatively, and make new friends. (See video above.) Participation, including materials, is free to the library’s patrons who register.

Thousands of people who live in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas have already participated in creative aging programs that Lifetime Arts has supported there. Recently, Lifetime Arts received a major grant that will enable them to expand such programs to 21 library systems across 12 states in the US:

  • Chandler, Phoenix and Tempe, AZ;
  • Sacramento and San Diego, CA;
  • Pikes Peak, CO;
  • Hartford and New Haven, CT;
  • Miami-Dade, FL;
  • Portland, ME;
  • Boston and Somerville, MA;
  • Brooklyn, Westchester and Queens in NY;
  • Cuyahoga and Dayton-Metro, OH;
  • Beaverton City, Cedar Mill and North Plains, OR;
  • Allegheny County and Philadelphia, PA; and
  • Seattle, WA

What this means is that Lifetime Arts will train the library staffs and teaching artists in these locations to provide these programs and will fund initial workshops in each system.

Even if your own library system isn’t listed above, there are still many ways that creative aging programs can be funded and offered in your area. One thing that Lifetime Arts has done is to publish the Creative Aging Toolkit for Public Libraries, a website designed to teach public libraries how to organize and fund creative aging programs — this is not dependent on their affiliation with any one creative aging organization. Your own library could use this toolkit to understand how to plan, implement and sustain this kind of program locally.

If you are interested in taking fine arts workshops at your own library, talk with someone there (or on the library’s Board of Trustees) and let them know. And also contact your public library’s Friends’ group — often, the money that Friends’ groups raise goes directly to library programs; creative aging could be a focus of their next event!

These workshops are fun, inclusive, educational and social, and the public libraries who plan and host them are doing great work to ensure that their older adult patrons have access to positive, engaging opportunities that stretch the imagination and keep the mind healthy. LEflag

Image credit:
Photo by Herb Scher. Used with permission from Lifetime Arts.

skm_100About Shannon McDonough
Shannon is the founder and editor of The Library Effect.

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