It’s hardly news that the Memphis arts scene is flourishing, but it is perhaps news for some that a unique local organization, Creative Aging, has since 2004 been enriching the lives of senior citizens in Memphis and the Mid-South by taking the arts directly to them. This group partners with assisted-living centers and other facilities to bring live performances and workshops to senior citizens. As Meryl Klein, Creative Aging’s executive director, likes to say, “Ours is the audience whose lives can be improved with each performance,” adding that “oftentimes the positive emotional effects of the arts experience lasts longer than memory of the event itself.”
These meaningful and high-quality artistic experiences for senior audiences are produced by a host of local professional musicians, visual artists, actors and storytellers. Klein says that the general public is always welcome at any performance. As an aside she notes that the most popular programs are musical performances at which audiences often sing and dance along with the performers.
The facts and figures of what Creative Aging has achieved in the past ten years are dizzying. The organization has presented more than 4,300 programs at 56 older-adult residential facilities throughout the Mid-South (nursing homes, retirement communities, senior centers, and adult daycare facilities), entertained some 20,000 adults, and paid more than $600,000 in performance fees to local artists — a definite win-win situation for all involved. For example, looking at the calendar of events on the organization’s website (www.creativeagingmidsouth.org), one can see that over fifty events were offered this past month at venues such as Kirby Pines, the Jewish Community Center, Bartlett Senior Center, Lutheran Village, Allen Morgan Nursing — well, the list just goes on and on!
Creative Aging is working hard to expand its donor base, an obvious imperative for any 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Klein says that hers is “the only organization of its kind in our region and while we are known by so many institutions, professionals in the aging industry and retirees, it is still a challenge to get us known by the public at large.”
To that end, Creative Aging is having a tenth anniversary celebration at the historic Annesdale Mansion (featured in last June’s issue of Memphis magazine) on Friday, October 10th, at 7 p.m. “A Vintage Evening” will feature fine wine, of course, and food prepared by Jose Gutierrez (River Oaks), Wally Joe (Acre), Jeffrey Dunham (Grove Grill), and Erling Jensen, as well as performances by Joyce Cobb, David Bowen, Breeze Cayolle, Bob Sunda, and Jewel Jones.
Peggy Seessel, formerly director of arts education at ArtsMemphis, is an enthusiastic supporter of Creative Aging and certainly someone with deep roots in the Memphis arts scene. She is helping with the planning for this special anniversary party, and tells me enthusiastically that this very special organization “is impacting so many seniors in our community” by enhancing their social and cognitive health through regular engagement with the arts.
For more information, contact Creative Aging at 901-272-3434.