MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors, is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s column on aging and the arts is presented by JCC MetroWest, which serves as a vital resource center for community residents from early childhood through older adults, including those with special needs.
Michel de Montaigne said, “There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.”
In celebration of Older Americans Month in May, we are reminded by the media and the seniors in our midst that the brain is in a constant state of development. We celebrate aging and its opportunities for advancement, progress, and evolution and are reminded that aging is a process of growth rather than of deterioration. Creative endeavors, including various art forms, are powerful tools for engaging seniors.
The benefits of participation by older adults in the arts are boundless. A landmark study by The Arts Endowment reveals how ongoing, community-based arts programs improve the quality of life for older Americans. While actively or even passively involved in music, creative writing and poetry, dance and movement, or the visual arts, seniors benefit from increased socialization, non-verbal forms of communication and expression, activation of the senses, increased self-expression, and discovery. Lifelong learning in the arts engages and educates older adults as creators, learners, and teachers. In addition, recent studies have demonstrated how active involvement by older adults in the arts can have positive, lasting effects on memory and self-esteem. Additional research supports the therapeutic benefits of engaging in the arts as one ages. Participation in, and appreciation of, the arts affects individuals cognitively, physically, and emotionally.
The opportunities for involvement in the arts in our communities are endless. Local adult learning schools, often run by individual towns or districts, offer myriad prospects for those seeking an entry into the arts. Your local JCC also offers innumerable classes. For example, the School of the Arts at the Gaelen Center at the JCC MetroWest offers studio art classes and workshops for all ages. Dance classes at all levels of ballet, jazz, hip hop, and tap are offered, as well as painting workshops, and percussion, piano, and voice lessons. The Margulies Center is home to a fabulous creative writing workshop for seniors and always welcomes new members looking to express themselves through writing and poetry.
For those not looking to actively participate in the arts, there are also benefits from passive participation, including film, book clubs, concerts and museum trips, and cultural outings, all readily available through our local townships, Jewish communities, and synagogues. Many if not all are available to older adults at a discounted price, thus enabling even those on a fixed income to reap the benefits of the arts as we age. Contact your local senior center, synagogue, or JCC to learn more about ways to immerse yourself in the arts and try something new. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, paint with watercolors, or write your memoirs as a legacy to your grandchildren, now is the time.
Sharon Rogovin is director of the JCC MetroWest’s Older Adults Program.