What are Creative Aging Workshops, and Why are They Important?

The term “creative aging” defines growing fields of practice and research as well as a specific type of arts education programming designed to serve older adults.

Creative aging workshops are:

  • Hands-on, skills-based, and sequential
  • Designed to encourage social engagement
  • Led by professional teaching artists

An exemplary creative aging program features:

  • Collaborative planning between the host organization and teaching artist
  • At least 8 sessions, scheduled for a minimum of 90 minutes each
  • A culminating event open to the public, i.e., an exhibit, performance, or reading
  • A registration process set up to encourage registrants to attend all sessions in the series
  • A focus on skill-building and social connection
A photo of two women, one is a Creative Aging workshop participant, the other is a teaching artist. The teaching artist has her arm around the participant's shoulders as they talk.
SU-CASA Afro-Caribbean Costume Design program, held at the Blenman Neighborhood Center in Brooklyn. Credit: Julia Xanthos Liddy for The New York Community Trust

Why is Creative Aging important?

Researchers such as Gene Cohen, and others, have discovered that the aging brain is far more pliable than previously believed, and that structured learning — especially through the arts — can improve cognitive functioning and enhance the quality of life. The goals are instructional, the results are often therapeutic.

Who is Involved, and Where Do Programs Happen?