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Creative Aging: Using art to create connections among older adults

We’ve always offered creative classes for patrons of all ages, but a new opportunity last year allowed us to create a unique experience for a very specific group within our community. In July of 2021, we kicked off an 8-week watercolor series taught by local artist, Lynn Jones, specifically for folks aged 55+. The innovative direct arts program for older adults ended on Thursday, September 2nd at the final Art Walk of the season, where participants selected 2-3 pieces created throughout the program to display in a special culminating exhibit at ART 321.

Natrona County Library was one of fifteen Wyoming libraries that were part of a Creative Aging project made possible through a partnership between the Wyoming State Library, Wyoming Arts Council, and Lifetime Arts, with funding from the Wyoming Community Foundation. Creative aging is the practice of engaging older adults in participatory, sequential, socially-engaging, and professionally run arts programs. Not only does this program model promote mastery of artistic skills and creative expression, it is a proven way to alleviate the effects of social isolation.

At the end of the program, it was obvious that the program had succeeded on all fronts. Not only did each of the 12 participants in the watercolor series develop new painting skills and artistic hobbies, but they all became close friends with intentions to stay connected in the future. In fact, they celebrated their accomplishments with a group dinner on the night of the Art Walk exhibit.

The feedback speaks for itself:

2/3 of our participants believed that the program helped them form new and stronger relationships, 75% believed that they experienced increased mental engagement from the artistic work, and 100% saw an improvement in their creative expression as a result of their participation.

“Lynn’s enthusiasm and joy of painting was contagious! I learned so much, as I have never used watercolor paints before. I will continue to ‘keep learning’ as I adjust to life without my husband of 32 years who passed away in April. It is so relaxing and enjoyable and fills some of the lonely hours when I am home alone. I have already scheduled another art class by Lynn and am looking forward to learning about colored pencils.”

“I had such a wonderful time participating in these watercolor classes! I learned so much, we laughed a lot, and the time flew by! The library was the perfect place for a group of ‘aging’ students as it was a short walk from the parking lot to the classroom, carrying a bag of supplies. Our show at Art 321 was especially fun and full of laughter. I would certainly register for another class of this type if the opportunity became available.”

Because of the overwhelming response we received from this watercolor series, we decided to offer another Creative Aging program that starts in January of 2022, which was quickly booked full by participants that were unable to make it into last year’s program. Stay tuned in the coming months for details on more future Creative Aging opportunities.

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