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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of woman watching a performance (Stagebridge)
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Chapter 2: How Arts Participation Benefits Older Adults

Before they started the creative writing and storytelling classes at Villa Azusa, I had been depressed to the point of being suicidal. I didn’t feel I even had a reason to get out of bed in the morning. With writing class, I have a purpose. I’m able to laugh more now, and I feel respected because not only does somebody think I have a brain, they make me use it. Lucy, resident of Villa Azusa, an EngAGE: The Art of Active
Aging community

Art is the transformation of the tangible (bodies, instruments, paper, ink, clay, fabric) and intangible (words, sounds, memories, emotions, ideas) into something new, such as sculpture, living history theater, musical performances, stories, paintings, dance, quilts, or poems. The process of creating, as well as the art that is created, transforms the participants and the people around them: other participants, family members, professional caregivers, and everyone who experiences the art. The artistic discipline, specifically in the performing arts, is transformed by the inclusion of older adults. And older adults in the audience benefit when they see themselves reflected in the artists.

Enhanced quality of life is a distinctive benefit of participation in the arts. Quality of life has many components. Aristotle used the term eudaimonia, often translated as happiness. For most of us, quality of life is synonymous with well-being. The arts are known to enhance the quality of life in different but parallel ways for communities and for individuals.

This chapter looks at transforming lives through the arts by:

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