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Wednesday, 21 June 2017 15:37

Creative Aging in the USA Featured

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Freshly inspired from attending the annual National Center for Creative Aging Leadership Conference, I was asked to guest edit an issue of the international journal, Creativity and Human Development, with a focus on Creativity in the United States of America. It was without hesitation that I chose to highlight the incredible work in the field of Creative Aging in this issue.

Creative Aging encompasses a broad spectrum of professionals working with older adults through the arts. This includes professional artists, creative arts therapists, arts educators, doctors, nurses, social workers, and health care administrators, to name but a few, together with older Americans and their families who engage in Creative Aging Programs. The field of Creative Aging has evolved rapidly in the United States in the past decade. Creative Aging professionals provide vital services for aging Americans, helping them to live independently for longer and improving health and wellbeing for those in long term care. The Creative Aging Movement has also helped shift the national discussion on aging, from one of illness and marginalization of old people, to a more positive understanding of the capabilities and potential of older adults.

Founded by Dr. Gene Cohen and Susan Perlstein, the National Center of Creative Aging (NCCA) is the hub of the field, identifying best practice programs nationwide, disseminating valuable resources to professionals and families of older adults, coordinating research opportunities, and organizing an annual conference. The 2015 NCCA conference marked a notable milestone in the field, as several NCCA initiatives were developed and expanded in coordination with The Whitehouse Conference on Aging, with hundreds of best-practice creative programs well established across the country and evolving research initiatives.

I am proud to introduce the rich and meaningful work of a handful of creative aging professionals in this special issue. As an art therapist, artist, educator and researcher, I am particularly interested in highlighting the intersection of related fields that work toward the common mission of improving the lives of older Americans. Janine Tursini, the Executive Director of Arts for the Aging (AFTA), discusses the seminal work of AFTA, Best Practices Creative Aging Arts Program, from her position as a director/administrator. Anne Mondro, Professor of Art at the University of Michigan, discusses her community artwork with older adults from an artist/researcher/educator perspective. Teaching artist, Anthony Hyatt, illustrates his work with Quicksilver Dance Company as well as other work he has done as a musician working with older adults. Donna Newman-Bluestein, dance movement therapist, inventor of the Octaband, explains how dance/movement therapy reaches older adults with dementia.

Dr Raquel Chapin Stephenson


Dr. Raquel Stephenson is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Lesley University’s Art Therapy Program, Core Faculty in the Ph.D. Expressive Therapies program, and Faculty Fellow in Lesley’s Institute for the Arts in Health. She was a 2010/2011 Fulbright Scholar to Estonia, where she taught in the Department of Applied Creativity at Tallinn University and continues to teach periodically as a visiting guest lecturer. She is adjunct faculty at New York University. Dr. Stephenson is a board certified, registered art therapist (ATR-BC) and a licensed creative arts therapist (LCAT).

Committed to improving the lives of older adults through the arts, Dr. Stephenson’s clinical work and research has focused on a wide spectrum of older populations. She was the founder, clinical supervisor and program director of New York University’s Creative Aging Therapeutic Services - a community-based program that provided art therapy to well older adults and those with dementia. She also worked on the geriatric psychiatry unit at St. Luke’s hospital in New York City, and with programs for individuals with HIV/AIDS. She presents her work on the intersection of arts and aging and consults with emerging clinical art therapy programs nationally and internationally. She designed and implemented the first creative arts therapy program for older adults with dementia in Estonia.

Dr. Stephenson serves on the National Advisory Council and Program Advisory Committee of Arts for the Aging in Rockville, MD, and the Advisory Council of the Art Therapy Outreach Center in New York City. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the international journal, Creativity and Human Development. Dr. Stephenson is involved with the American Art Therapy Association, having served on the Educational Program Review Board and Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education.

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You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Maya Angelou


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