Get Creative as You Age
Ah, retirement. You’ve finally entered the golden years, when you’re supposed to kick back, relax, and enjoy the reprieve from work that you rightfully deserve. There’s just one problem—what are you supposed to do with all of this extra time? If you’re feeling a bit anxious about transitioning from the daily grind of a full-time job into the laidback retirement lifestyle, don’t fret. The answer is simple: pursue an artistic hobby! Participating in the arts is a great way to stay active and involved with your community, and it’s also been proven to boost your wellness and happiness.
So what’s your artistic dream? Would you like to write a novel, or a collection of poems? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint, play an instrument, dance, act, or even produce a film. No matter your dream, retirement is the perfect time to embark on a new artistic journey. In the words of the venerable C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Creative, Healthy Aging
It’s no secret that wellness and the arts go hand in hand. Numerous studies have shown that when you tap into your creative side, you’re simultaneously enhancing your personal health. One famous study conducted by Dr. Gene D. Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, found that senior citizens who were involved in weekly arts programs scheduled fewer doctor visits, took less medicine, were in better physical health, and performed better on mental health measures than seniors who did not participate in weekly arts programs.
“Engaging in community-based arts programs has a significant positive impact” on the health of older adults, says Gay Hanna, executive director of the National Center for Creative Aging. “What we’re finding is that older adults [who participate in the arts] have better brain health. The brain, contrary to the popularly-held belief, can continue to grow new cells just by being creatively engaged.”
Similar statistics were found in a study performed by Don D. Coffman, a professor at the University of Iowa. Published in 2009 in the International Journal of Community Music, Coffman’s study analyzed survey responses from more than 1,000 musicians in the New Horizons International Music Association. On average, New Horizons musicians are 70 years old, played an instrument in high school, and currently play their instruments for an hour each day.
The survey asked New Horizons musicians about their health and happiness. Approximately 74 percent of the survey respondents cited emotional well-being benefits from playing their instruments. Another 24 percent reported physical well-being benefits; 21 percent reported cognitive stimulation; and 20 percent believed they received socialization benefits.
As Hanna points out, socialization through arts participation is crucial to maintaining health and independence as you age. “Engaging in the arts allows a person to continue to learn and expand their social network, and to leave a legacy for their family and community,” she says.
Finding Your Niche
Once you’ve decided to get involved in the arts, the trick is finding a program that works for you. There are many ways to engage in the arts, so you don’t have to be Picasso to have a good time. Here at Southgate at Shrewsbury, we pride ourselves on being a sophisticated, arts appreciative community. Donald Flanagan, founding partner of Southgate, recognized that social, recreational, and artistic pursuits were the basis of a fulfilling lifestyle for seniors. From our “Art Matters” course to our painting classes to our theatre productions to our summer concert series, Southgate at Shrewsbury has something for everyone to keep those creative juices flowing.