Not Just Aging Gracefully: Aging Creatively
Vanessa Moeller, Deputy Director
Last year Akou and I were very fortunate to attend the Juice Conference held in Orono, Maine. Over the two days there, we divided to conquer the many interesting sessions being given and I wandered into a session called “Creative Aging”. I was drawn to this session for a couple of reasons:
1. I have always had a terrible soft spot for older adults. They are often the most authentic human beings – rich with stories and wisdom.
2. I was aware New Brunswick is aging at a rapid rate after a research project I undertook on equity for artsnb.
The session offered great insight into initiatives and research being undertaken by the National Centre for Creative Aging in the USA. I was absolutely floored by the statistics on how art initiatives undertaken with older adults led to less depression, hospitalization, medications, and to gains for overall healthier, happier individuals. Two similar organizations, Arts Health Network Canada and Creative Aging Canada, are doing similar work in Canada. The evidence was incredibly compelling and I enthusiastically discussed it with Akou on the drive back. We both quickly agreed it seemed absolutely logical to pursue something to pair professional artists with older adults in our own province because we knew it would benefit all involved. The hope is that professional artists can help older adults live fuller, healthier lives. At the same time, changing the shared narrative around older adults to place increased value on their knowledge and wisdom helps us understand that everyone, no matter their age, can continue to learn, engage, and be valuable members of our society.
I did some initial research and we then reached out to the Atlantic Institute on Aging to see if they would be interested in partnering on some Creative Aging initiatives. Little did we know that we had tapped into the perfect partnership – Barbara Burnett, Executive Director, and Adam Thornton, Executive Support, Marketing & Communications Officer, have been a dream team to work with and together we have managed in a very short time to pull together a team that includes artsnb, the Atlantic Aging Institute, and researchers Dr. Bill Randall (St. Thomas University), Imelda Perley (Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Institute (MMI), University of New Brunswick), and Dr. Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard (Université de Moncton).
Our first initiative is a workshop series that builds on research Dr. Randall has been undertaking that looks at how having a strong personal narrative is a marker of resiliency in older adults. The workshop will feature professional writer Deborah Carr, who will be leading participants through exercises on how to mine their personal stories for the purposes of autobiographical writing.
I am very excited about this initiative and encourage you to stay tuned for information about this workshop by following our social media feeds. The first workshop is scheduled for February 21st at St. Thomas University. More details should be coming very, very soon about how to sign up.
My next blog post will be an in-depth look at the first workshop: what we did, how it went, and what’s next!