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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of woman watching a performance (Stagebridge)

About the Toolkit


Creativity. According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary it is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” A more concise definition is “bringing something new of value into existence.” The etymology of “creativity,” however, is what resonates for those of us who are passionate about embedding the arts—or creativity—in the lives of older adults and the communities in which they live. The word comes from the Latin creatus, which means “to have grown.” Older adults have grown in knowledge and experience, and we should value them for what they contribute to each of us individually and to our communities.

The arts are the key. They enable us to communicate effectively within and between generations, making sense of and reconciling life experiences, understanding and celebrating the present, and creating a legacy for the future. They also allow us to experiment without fear of failing—to be challenged—and to succeed in learning new skills and discovering latent ones. Strengthening connections among older adults, family, friends, residents, and caregivers, the arts create a sense of community in which each person’s contribution is respected. In sum, the arts enhance quality of life.

No matter what their age or their physical or mental ability, older adults can and should participate in the arts. And not just any arts, but high-quality, participatory arts programs conducted over a significant period by professional teaching artists.

The National Guild for Community Arts Education, the National Center for Creative Aging, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center believe that the arts are of vital importance to the lives of current and future generations of older adults. Many leaders in the arts, healthcare, and aging services industries share this belief, but too few have created or sustained effective arts and aging programs. Now is the time to be part of the process, part of the solution: the “beyond bingo” generation is here.

This resource is designed for leaders and program staff in public, nonprofit, and for-profit arts and humanities organizations and institutions and in healthcare and aging services organizations, corporations, and institutions. It is intended to increase the expertise of those who direct existing community arts and aging programs and to give others in the community the tools to take the first step—and keep going.

This information will also benefit:

The Arts and Aging Toolkit will help you:

Enhancing quality of life by embedding the arts in the lives of older adults and the communities in which they live is more than a goal. It is one facet of a broader movement in the arts and aging services fields: a push toward designing or redesigning community so that the infrastructure works harmoniously to support everyone’s needs as defined by all community members.