Memphis has a thriving music and arts scene, but sometimes it can be difficult for our community’s seniors to access it. Creative Aging works to solve this issue of access by bringing the arts to the city’s seniors wherever they live and gather. Since 2005, Creative Aging has presented over 6,000 performances that have touched the lives of more than 30,000 seniors.
“Our goal is make sure that older adults in the greater Memphis area live well and age well,” said Executive Director Mia Henley. “Part of that work is done by effectively bringing music and arts into their lives.”
Opportunities exist across the city to see live music and performance arts of all types. But Creative Aging takes it a step further by meeting seniors where they are. It hires professional musicians and artists to perform where older adults live and gather, ranging from senior centers to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospitals and independent-living centers. Creative Aging works with 60 senior communities in 28 ZIP codes from Whitehaven to Lakeland, presenting over 600 one-hour performances in a typical year.
“The aging world and the world of art and music can be at a distance from one another,” Henley said. “We act as a connector to bring fantastic musicians and artists into senior communities.”
Additionally, Creative Aging’s Senior Arts Series provides an opportunity for seniors who want to and are able to attend a performance in a theater setting. Driving Downtown on a Friday night for a performance at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts might present challenges, but afternoon performances at Theatre Memphis offer an accessible alternative. Following the performance, audience members enjoy meeting up with old friends at a reception attended by that day’s performers.
“People want to maintain connections to the community—the arts are a way they are able to do that,” Henley said. “Music and the arts improve seniors’ quality of life. We hope to help people age in a healthy way. We are always glad when participants laugh and have fun, but on a much different level, music and the arts stimulate the brain, enhance our sense of self, and allow people to engage in creative experiences. These things are crucial to vital, healthy aging.”
Creative Aging works with over 65 artists, who are all paid for their time. Senior communities choose musicians they want, and the list runs the gamut from blues, jazz and gospel to rock ‘n’ roll, classical and opera. The work is appreciated; most performances are during weekday afternoons when it doesn’t interfere with other gigs. Most Creative Aging artists are musicians, but the organization also works with visual artists who engage participants in their chosen medium.
Paying musicians and artists for their time is important. Creative Aging receives funding from foundations and arts organizations such as ArtsMemphis and Tennessee Arts Commission. Individual donations and business support is also vital to the organization’s success. No donation is too small, and can be made at Creativeagingmidsouth.org. And with only one full-time staff person and two part-timers, volunteers are crucial to make those 600 annual performances run smoothly.
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