Spotlight on seniors and the arts

By Devon Gallivan
The imagination and creativity of older adults can flourish later in life, helping them to realize unique, unlived potential. Perhaps they pursued these creative outlets early in their lives before school, work, and other responsibilities took over and now in retirement, creativity can once again take center stage.
Seniors have always been staunch supporters of and participants in the arts. Many grew up going to the theater, watching films in classic movie houses, and taking part in variety shows. The strength of the arts community on Cape Cod and in Plymouth is what has drawn many to the area. The obvious attraction of this region may be the stunning beaches, maritime and wildlife sanctuaries, and a variety of restaurants for all types of foodies. But the true discovery is the vast array of arts and culture offered year-round.
Engaging in the arts can stimulate older adults’ cognitive function in the form of recounting memories or recalling words or lyrics. There are an abundance of benefits gained by either participating or spectating in the world of arts and entertainment. According to the Journal of Aging Studies, “Artistic creativity facilitates successful aging by encouraging the development of problem-solving skills, motivation, and perceptions that translate into a practical creativity in the way these individuals manage their everyday lives.” Socially, the arts are a big plus, stimulating and promoting conversation while seniors enjoy performances along with their peers as well as other generations. Mental health is also positively affected, as the arts prove to be a positive distraction from life’s overwhelming daily tasks, often curing boredom, which leads to depression in some seniors.
Thirwood Place residents have several favorites when it comes to local gems offering top-notch art, theater, and music. They frequent the Cape Symphony, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, Cape Playhouse, Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cape Cinema, and Cape Cod Museum of Art, to name just a few.
Participation in the arts enriches seniors’ lives regardless of their outlet of creative expression. Dancing, singing, painting, creative writing, crafts, poetry, woodworking, and storytelling all offer healthy stimulation for seniors.
Residents at Thirwood Place have regular programs that offer an opportunity to participate in all the above activities. The Thirwood Singers, a choral group, meet once a week to practice tunes of Broadway shows and songs from the Classic American songbook. These rehearsals prepare them for their big summer performances around the community as well as special holiday events in December. Frank Hynes, a resident of Thirwood Place, is a member of the choral group and he also keeps his creative juices flowing by constructing the most detailed of model ships in the wood shop. He recently unveiled a model he built of the CG-36500, the standard motor lifeboat used by the United States Coast Guard at the time of the 1952 Chatham rescue.
Painting proves to increase social engagement, a sense of belonging, self-awareness and understanding. In a study executed by The Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, seniors taking art lessons had increased levels of cognitive processing, which including introspection, self-monitoring and memory. The researchers concluded that creating art offers the possibility for improving or even eliminating the reduced brain function that normally comes with aging. Joan Emery, also a Thirwood singer, participates in the weekly painting class at Thirwood Place. Joan never painted before moving into Thirwood Place. She says, “I wanted to give everything a try when I moved to Thirwood. Painting kept my interest because it keeps me busy, I like the social companionship and have a great teacher who is so helpful.”
Whether participating actively in the arts or simply taking in an occasional concert, play, or art exhibit, the arts around us clearly offer a benefit to all Cape Cod and Plymouth residents.
Embellishing your life with the arts is easy to do regardless of your age or where you live. Senior living communities, senior centers, community colleges and the many local venues in this region all have programs with a full range of creative offerings for people of all ages and abilities. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.”
Devon Gallivan is a Sales & Marketing Specialist at Thirwood Place. She can be reached at or (508) 398-8006.

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