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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of five people dancing with a saxophonist (Kairos)

How to Use This Toolkit

If you are reading this resource, chances are you want to develop a new arts and aging program or enhance an existing one. You may be an experienced program designer or someone just starting out. You probably identify with or work in the arts or aging services fields. You may be hoping for answers—knowledge, rationales, tips, models, and resources—and this toolkit is intended to provide them. Your commitment and passion for older adults and the arts will help you face the challenge and make the difference between success and failure.

Chapters 1 through 5 provide the background to help you design and implement an arts and aging program. These chapters explain the context for arts and aging today; the benefits of arts participation for older adults ; issues, infrastructure, and opportunities in the aging services and arts fields; and effective practices for arts and aging programs.

Chapters 6 through 9 offer practical, how-to guidance for program design and implementation; program evaluation; and public awareness. These chapters illustrate important concepts with concrete examples from successful programs. You can learn something from all of them, whether they are focused on well or frail elders, people who live in the community or in a residential facility, or older adults with dementia.

We have designed this toolkit for a variety of experience and interest levels. Many readers will find something of interest in every chapter, and others will browse the sections that are most relevant to them. Here is a roadmap to make the toolkit work for you:

If you are… Read…
Just starting out or interested in this subject The entire toolkit
An older adult who wants to learn how to age productively Chapters 1, 2, and 5, which explain normal aging and the benefits, challenges, and outcome goals of effective arts and aging programs
Experienced in the arts and aging field Chapter 2 to refresh your existing arguments about benefits and chapter 8 to understand the value of outcome evaluation
Working in the aging services or arts fields and want to convince others of the value of arts and aging programs Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
A teaching artist Chapter 1 to understand normal aging and chapters 6 and 7 to understand program design and implementation
A private- or public-sector funder Chapters 1, 2, and 5 for background on arts and aging programs and an explanation of effective practices
A family member of an older adult Chapter 1 to understand normal aging and chapter 2 to learn about rationales that can convince senior centers, adult day programs, and long-term care facilities to offer professionally conducted participatory arts programs

Creativity Opens Doors

If you’re looking for a reason to start an arts program for older adults, the older adults quoted throughout this toolkit offer eloquent testimony. By her own description, Suzanne could not string three sentences together before she moved into an EngAGE: The Art of Active Aging community. After she began participating in writing and visual arts programs, she wrote a screenplay for a 10-minute film. Her story of reinvention, including the making of the film, was featured in the Showtime series This American Life. She is now working on several other film and stage projects.

Suzanne’s enthusiasm speaks volumes about why creativity matters to older adults:

I couldn’t believe that there would be a community for me at this time in my life. I didn’t think I would be able to find something new inside of me. You know that same feeling when you got out of school and the whole world was open to you? Now, all over again, the whole world is open to me.