Creative aging programs can lower the rates of loneliness and depression, producing higher morale and improved hand dexterity. The benefits are clear as participants find new social roles that lead to improved mood and confidence, better family relationships and maybe even increased income. In the United States there is a clear chasm between low-income and high-income households when it comes to arts participation. As pointed out by data scientist LinChiat Chang, “creative aging is a social privilege in the U.S.A.” She demonstrated the dramatic benefits of arts participation for adults in lower socioeconomic groups. Participants perform much better than their peers on multiple wellness metrics, as seen in a series of charts on memory performance, executive function performance and personal health. In the Netherlands, Karsten Klein, deputy mayor of The Hague told how his city has been transformed since joining the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. A problem of loneliness or lack of purpose is being solved by activities that engage the participants socially and creatively. Older adults were interviewed individually to gather information to learn their biggest concerns and what makes them happy. A surprising result of international testing found that cultural and personal history is crucial to engagement in the arts. The art therapy techniques that worked successfully in the United States did not work in Estonia. Significant historical moments, public and private, and personal happenings as well as cultural and aesthetic experiences shape us right along with generational differences. The international crowd came together at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference in Washington D.C. recently to talk about the importance of artistic and creative endeavors to combat ageism and help people stay vital and connected as they age. Experts from around the world spoke about creative endeavors – storytelling and singing, weaving and dancing, and painting and poetry – and how they can make people’s lives better as they grow older and deal with the challenges of aging. http://www.nextavenue.org
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