AZ Creative Aging is an ambitious and comprehensive initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts that will build a creative aging infrastructure to enhance quality of life for older Arizonans. With funding from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, AZ Creative Aging will provide training to teaching artists, arts organization and aging/healthcare service providers, support the development of high-quality arts programs for older adults and embed creative aging knowledge and best practices in the community.
Creative Aging is a national movement to advance understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging, and a term used to encompass the many types of quality arts programs which support and enrich the lives of adults across the aging spectrum.
Decades of research have found that older adults are healthier and happier when participating in creative aging programs. Among the findings: fewer doctor visits and less medication use for study participants engaged in professionally-conducted arts activities; improved cognitive measures; and self-reported higher morale and less social isolation.
At any stage of life, our sense of well-being is affected by our ability to live with purpose and joy, to deal effectively with life’s changes and challenges, and to sustain positive, meaningful, dynamic relationships, but this becomes particularly acute as we age. Participatory, meaningful arts engagement has a clear and direct impact on these three elements which lead to improved quality of life in older adults.
Our nation is home to a growing older adult population; in Arizona, U.S. Census Bureau data estimates that by the year 2020, more than 1 in 4 people will be over age 60.
This ‘graying’ of America has precipitated dramatic changes in the field of aging, and as a society, we’re shifting our perspective and understanding of later life. Creative Aging utilizes the unique ability of the arts to move away from a deficits approach to aging, that stresses losses, to an assets approach that stresses strengths, potential and achievements.
AZ Creative Aging Programs and Resources
The Rural and BIPOC Creative Aging Communities Cohort is a program for arts organizations with a serious and committed interest in better serving Arizona’s older adults by strengthening existing programs and/or developing new initiatives. Combining professional development, assets and needs assessments, and customized consultations, the cohort is designed to equip organizations with new frameworks and ideas for developing, expanding, or deepening creative aging efforts. Cohort activities began in September 2021 and will continue through June 2022.
This activity is made possible by a grant provided by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in partnership with E.A. Michelson Philanthropy.
Generation(s) Lab was an incubator program for arts organizations with a committed interest in better serving Arizona’s older adults by strengthening existing programs and/or developing new initiatives. The AZ Creative Aging initiative is developed around the core principles of a process-based approach, cultural responsiveness and participatory, meaningful engagement. Generation(s) Lab explored these ideas as they relate to the work of arts organizations, helps organizations discover natural connections between existing programs and older adult participants, and equips organizations with new frameworks and ideas for developing, expanding, or deepening creative aging partnerships and initiatives. By combining professional development, needs assessments and customized trainings and consultations, Generation(s) Lab was designed to encourage experimentation, meet the needs of participating organizations, and help each organization develop a plan that aligns with their organizational mission. 11 arts organizations participated in the Generation(s) Lab pilot year:
The first programmatic module of the three year AZ Creative Aging initiative, the Teaching Artist Institute was a comprehensive training program that introduced teaching artists to the variety of settings, programs, and partners that make up the creative aging field, and provided skills-building activities for participants to attain the specialized knowledge needed to work successfully with older adults. 10 teaching artists were selected to participate in the Teaching Artist Institute’s pilot year. A second cohort began its training in October 2017.
Click here to learn more about the AZ Creative Aging Teaching Artist Institute.
Lifelong Arts Engagement Grant
Lifelong Arts Engagement Grants support partnerships that foster meaningful arts learning experiences in a variety of community settings for learners of any age. Community/social service organizations or governmental entities partnered with arts organizations or professional teaching artists are eligible to apply.
This study, led by Gene D. Cohen, MD, looked at the impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults. This was the first controlled study to assess whether participation in the creative arts, apart from traditional medical care, can promote healthier aging.
Designed for the arts and aging services fields, this resource explains why and how older adults benefit from participation in professionally conducted community arts programs and offers detailed advice and examples on program design, implementation, and evaluation.
AZ Creative Aging is an initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts funded by a grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.
Additional funding for AZ Creative Aging programs and activities is provided by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in partnership with E.A. Michelson Philanthropy.
Banner photos (from left to right): photo courtesy Safos Dance Theatre; photo courtesy The Drawing Studio; Arlene Lopez performs in “Las Comadres” by Safos Dance Theatre, photo by Dominic AZ Bonuccelli, courtesy of Safos Dance Theatre; photo courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum.