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Aging Well: Expanding horizons by exploring creativity

Exploring your creativity provides tangible benefits for your health and wellness.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Research has shown that older adults who engage with the arts in a group setting — anything from dancing to a poetry group to singing in a choir — enjoy tangible benefits in multiple areas of health. This has to do with feelings of mastery, and with social connection.

“This research, combined with Dr. Gene Cohen’s description of life after 50 as a time of potential and inner growth known as the Creative Age, forms a foundation for using creativity to support personal wellness,” says Caroline Edasis, AVP of resident engagement for Mather. Mather is the organization that’s bringing The Mather, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, opening in Tysons next month.

Mather encourages residents in their existing communities — not just those who are established artists — to try creating new art forms in Open Art Studios. These studios, which position arts engagement as a vehicle for wellness, not just recreation, inviting both lifelong and new artists to explore their own Creative Age in a welcoming group setting.

“While working in diverse media including ceramics and mixed media/painting, participants often realize alongside their peers that they have an untapped expressive ability, a new love for a specific media, or a personal project to pursue,” says Caroline. “One of our master’s-level facilitators, trained in art and psychology, is present to support each individual’s creative journey, and that person helps transform the group into an uplifting community in which residents learn more about each other and themselves.”

Inquiry-Based Art Viewing

Mather also has a signature approach to art appreciation — one that mirrors how contemporary museum practices are evolving. Rather than teaching or encouraging art appreciation with lectures from an expert such as a docent, they focus on inclusive, inquiry-based art-viewing techniques.

“Did you know that the average person spends 17 seconds looking at a work of art in a museum?” asks Caroline. “In our visual literacy programs, we often spend a full hour describing an image, sharing stories conjured by the work of art, or even creating group poems in response to the work. These techniques focus on the interests, experiences, and curiosity of viewers to deliver intellectually stimulating content while challenging us to bring culture down from the pedestal and into our lives.”

The Mather has already formed relationships with local arts organizations, and plans to offer inquiry-based art experiences for residents on-site in museums, theaters, galleries, and more.

Mather recognizes that creativity is about much more than visual art. They encourage everyone to recognize aging as a time of great creative potential, whether through music, poetry, storytelling, dance and movement, or even gardening — the sky is truly the limit.

The Mather, opening in early 2024 in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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