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Creating More Than Art

We all know that eating right, exercise and getting the right amount of sleep are important for maintaining our overall health. But can participating in creative arts, such as music therapy and visual arts help us thrive as we age? According to an article written by the National Institute on Aging, “researchers are highly interested in examining if and how participating in arts activities may be linked to improving cognitive function and memory and improving self-esteem and well-being.”[1]

That’s exactly why Creative Aging Network – NC, located in Greensboro, developed the Elder Arts Initiative Project, a three-year, CMP-funded program that began in January 2020. The project, which aims to ‘improve residents’ quality of life by increasing social engagement and opportunities for lifelong learning through the arts’, provides professionally conducted art classes every week to 18 long-term care facilities in five counties. Since the start of the program, over 500 residents have participated.

So many of them have enjoyed the program and improved their art-making skills. “One of our residents enjoyed painting so much in the classes he asked for a paint kit in his room so he could paint in between classes,” said Jackie LeMere, Activities Director at Friends Homes Guilford in Greensboro. The resident artists have also enjoyed showing their artwork. LeMere continued, “We made an art gallery bulletin board over the summer when the focus was [painting] different fruits and displayed the artwork. The residents loved seeing their work and showing it off to their friends and family.” Residents are encouraged to participate in different mediums, including watercolor, acrylic painting, clay sculpting, arts and crafts and letter writing. CAN-NC has also hosted a Resident Art Exhibition at their campus in Greensboro during the project that showcased resident artwork. Residents were encouraged to participate in these events as able and enjoyed showing off their work to family, friends, and the public.

According to project leader and CAN-NC’s Executive Director, Lia Miller, “CAN-NC’s quality of life model recognizes that having opportunities to choose among meaningful, life-enhancing options, and bringing people together around common interests to foster relationships can significantly influence a person’s sense of well-being. The significance of the arts is that this creative programming keeps residents involved week after week, because of new and interesting challenges and aesthetically pleasing results. Because of this, a compounding positive effect is being achieved.”

The Elder Arts Initiative Project, which will end in March 2023, has provided a positive impact to the culture of these facilities. We expect to see continued outreach efforts from CAN-NC that will benefit long-term care communities in North Carolina. For more information about Creative Aging Network-NC, visit their website at

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