Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Promoting quality of life through art

Written by Lynn Friedman Hamilton, Maturity and Its Muse

The 2018 theme for Older Americans Month, Engage at Every Age, emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I engage in my community by sharing my passion for art — and its benefits — with others.

Research has illustrated that participation in activities that encourage creative engagement in a social environment have positive physical and psychological benefits for people of all ages. For example, a RAND report, Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts, highlights findings about the instrumental benefits of the arts including improved physical and mental health for older adults and increased social interaction among community members. In addition the RAND review supported the intrinsic benefits of the arts including expanded capacity for empathy and cognitive growth. Singing, dancing, or playing the banjo are all activities that can bring pleasure, improve wellbeing, and help create social bonds.

As an entrepreneur, former gallery-owner, and a lifelong supporter of arts programming in St. Louis, my experience in the art world has provided an opportunity to champion older artists and organize events for people to explore art and opportunities for creative engagement. In 2009, I founded Maturity and Its Muse, a community driven non-profit dedicated to improving the minds, health, wellness, and quality of life for older adults in the St. Louis region. Engaging participants in different modes of art — from watching and discussing a film to participatory art — is the main goal of Maturity and Its Muse.

Maturity and Its Muse was founded with its eponymous exhibit in 2010 at the St. Louis’ Sheldon Arts Gallery. Since this show, we have held two subsequent iterations, including the current, “Maturity and Its Muse: Celebrating Artistic Experience” now on view at Art Saint Louis until May 24. This juried exhibit features the work of 32 regional artists over the age of 70.

Other ongoing programs that we have established include the Kemper Art Reaches Everyone (KARE) program, developed in collaboration with the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. KARE is designed for adults with early to moderate Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In this one-hour, multisensory program, participants engage with four or five pieces of art in the museum’s galleries. The KARE program is free and available to memory care groups upon request to either the museum or by contacting me.

In September 2018, my organization, along with community partners, will present the Sixth Annual Silver Screen Series:  Films Celebrating Creative Aging Through the Arts. Our Silver Stages Series:  Mature St. Louis Performers for Mature St. Louis Audiences, a partnership with the Missouri History Museum, will also begin its sixth season of performances.

Among our programs with ongoing partnerships are events with the St. Louis County Library and our Memories@MoBot monthly program developed with the Missouri Botanical Garden. Our latest endeavor, Celebrating Art for Senior Engagement, a community-wide festival with 50 partner organizations presenting 82 programs, completed its third year in April 2018.

In addition to my work connecting people to opportunities for engagement, I specialize in connecting organizations to other organizations where there can be a synergy in creative service that will benefit older adults. I also aim to highlight how the lives and experiences of mature, seasoned artists can serve as positive, productive examples of aging for all of us. One such artist is Barbara Holtz (age 94), whose two artworks are featured in the current exhibit at Art Saint Louis.

Barbara Holtz, featured artist at “Maturity and Its Muse: Celebrating Artistic Experience,” Art Saint Louis, April 21, 2018. Photo Credit:  Robin Hirsch-Steinhoff.

I am continually envisioning new opportunities for creative engagement and organizations with which to collaborate. Learn more about Maturity and Its Muse on my website and do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to discuss an opportunity for partnership or to connect to current programs. Our programs and events are free and open to the public.

For additional resources for creative engagement, check out:

Lifelong Learning Institute Washington University

Missouri Arts Council

National Center for Creative Aging

National Endowment for the Arts

Editor’s Note:  Lynn’s activities and interests in improving the quality of life for seniors earned her the 2016 Woman of Achievement award in recognition of her Services to Older Adults. In 2017, Lynn was recognized by the Gladys & Henry Crown Center for Senior Living as “a pioneer in local efforts to promote the arts among older adults.”