I am the program director for the Senior Theatre Experience, an educational theatre program provided by the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center. A couple of years ago, I was able to receive training in Art Therapy and bring new methods to integrate into my programming. This training really opened my eyes to understand how much impact creativity can have on one’s overall health and well-being.
Creativity can come in all kinds of forms, and can even occur when we are inspired by another’s self-expression. For some, creativity comes more naturally, and for others, like me… it can take more work. But what I do know is that creativity exists within us all, and it is just like any other muscle in our body—there are ways we can tone that muscle just by simply using it.
As we grow older, we begin to feel the effects of aging and with that, we become more mindful of how we can care for our body, from the food we eat to the exercise we offer it. But caring for our minds is just as important as caring for our physical bodies. Creativity is food for the mind, just as exercise is food for the body.
According to the National Institute on Aging, “participating in the arts may improve the health, well-being, and independence of older adults, and help with memory and self-esteem.” (Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging, 2021)
There have been many studies linking the positive impact art and tapping into one’s creativity have on the brain.
According to Barbara Bagan, Ph.D., ATR-BC in her article, Aging: What’s Art Got to Do With It? “Neurological research shows that making art can improve cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites. Thus, art enhances cognitive reserve, helping the brain actively compensate for pathology by using more efficient brain networks or alternative brain strategies. Making art or even viewing art causes the brain to continue to reshape, adapt, and restructure, thus expanding the potential to increase brain reserve capacity.”
One of the students in my program, Lois Stanley, told me her personal experience with this. “If you want to know that value that this program, the Senior Theatre Experience has had for me personally, (other than credibility with my grandchildren), it has opened up all kinds of synapses and new pathways for me… just trying to memorize some of my lines was an enjoyable exercise for my mind.”
Not only does participating in a creative activity improve cognitive function, but it also promotes feelings of purpose, meaning, well-being, contentment, and joy, while helping to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation. It strengthens our connection to our own identity and to the world around us.
Lina Belmore, another participant in my program, shares her thoughts: “I would consider myself an introvert, and sometimes it is difficult for me to interact with people. However, by participating in this program, I’m discovering that theater is the human experience on stage, and because of that, I am finding so many wonderful opportunities that expand my own human experience, and I’m able to create deeper connections with those around me. I’m so thankful that the City of Marquette recognizes how important the arts are, and how it brings people together, and brings warmth to me and to our community.”
If you are an older adult in Marquette County and are looking to explore new ways of bringing more creativity into your life, I encourage you to check out the wide variety of free programs the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center offers, from fitness programs to painting, dance, and theatre. My intention with the Senior Theatre Experience is to provide programming, in partnership with Songbird Creative, Northern Michigan University, and local theatre non-profits, that nurtures your creativity and self-expression. I invite you to come have fun while exploring the different aspects of the world of theatre, and partake in unique experiences that illuminate the creativity, collaboration, and innovation behind the curtain. You’ll have the opportunity to attend rehearsals, lectures, backstage tours, learn about lighting, stage, and set design, and get free tickets to upcoming productions.
Moiré Embley has over eight years of experience in arts programming as well as training in Art Therapy. She is the program director of the Senior Theatre Experience, and founder of Songbird Creative, a little company encouraging creativity, self-expression, and mental fitness in older adults.
Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging. (2021, October 21). Maine. https://states.aarp.org/maine/aging-fearlessly-art-creativity-and-aging
Aging: What’s Art Got To Do With It? (2022). Todaysgeriatricmedicine.com. https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/news/ex_082809_03.shtml#:~:text=Neurological%20research%20shows%20that%20making,networks%20or%20alternative%20brain%20strategies.
Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.