Education, Recreation & Creative Arts Programs
Education, Recreation and Creative Arts programs support the health and well-being of seniors by providing an outlet for creativity, enhanced meaning for life and/or a sense of purpose for participants. These types of programs can provide social support, build self-esteem, foster resilience and reduce social isolation for seniors.
Education is an important tool for health promotion and can provide practical knowledge to improve seniors’ wellbeing. There are proven benefits to engaging in educational activities, even when it is purely for the pursuit of knowledge. Research done with participants at senior centres found that lifelong learning can stimulate mental activity, create new opportunities for learning, provide information on healthy lifestyles, provide a sense of satisfaction and achievement, and offer opportunities for socialization and friendships.
The potential for creative arts programs to enhance seniors’ health and wellbeing is only a recent area of study, but research suggests that creative arts programs may have significant positive impacts on seniors who participate. Seniors involved in participatory art programs (such as dance, writing, music, theatre and visual arts) have been shown to have improvements in mental and physical health, memory, creativity, problem-solving, everyday competence, reaction time, balance/gait, and quality of life.
While seniors usually participate in recreation programs for enjoyment and socialization purposes, these programs can also play a role in reducing social isolation and promoting positive emotions. These types of recreational activities (such as handicrafts, crosswords/puzzles, visiting with others, Bingo, listening to music, etc.) have been shown to be positively associated with life satisfaction, self-perceived health, and a sense of belonging.
The three program profiles included below represent examples of Education, Recreation and Creative Arts programs.
Profiles of Specific Education, Recreation and Creative Arts Programs
Program Profile: Embrace Aging (Eldercare Foundation)
Embrace Aging Month is a month-long educational initiative from the Eldercare Foundation that includes educational workshops, information sessions, and activities to raise awareness of aging resources in the community and connect seniors and their families with these resources. Read the full profile here.
Program Profile: Quirk-e (Quirk-e)
The seminal Creativity and Aging Study by Dr. Gene Cohen was key in establishing the role of creative arts programs in promoting the health and wellbeing of seniors. The Arts, Health and Seniors Project was inspired by this work and launched in 2006 as a partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health (through the SMART Fund) and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. Quirk-e or the QUeer Imaging and wRiting Kollective of Elders was a part of the Arts, Health and Seniors Project and is a specific example of a creative arts program for seniors. Read the full profile here.
Program Profile: Humjoli (PICS)
The desire for positive social interaction and social relationships is one of the key reasons seniors participate at senior centres. Humjoli is an example of a peer social group for older South Asian women which provides opportunities for peer support, social interaction and fun. Read the full profile here.
 Sloane-Seale, A., & Kops, D. (2008). Older Adults in Lifelong Learning: Participation and Successful Aging. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 34(1), 37-62.
 Noice, T., Noice, H., & Kramer, F. (2014). Participatory Arts for Older Adults: A Review of Benefits and Challenges. The Gerontologist, 54(5), 741–753
 O’Neill, C., & Dogra, S. (2016). Different Types of Sedentary Activities and Their Association With Perceived Health and Wellness Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. American Journal Of Health Promotion: AJHP, 30(5), 314-322. doi:10.1177/0890117116646334
 Cohen G. D. , Perlstein S. , Chapline J. , Kelly J. , Firth K. M. , & Simmens S . (2006 ). The impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults. The Gerontologist, 46, 726 -734.
 Novek, S., Menec, V., Tran, T., & Bell, S. (2013) Social Participation and Its Benefits. Retrieved from http://www.gov.mb.ca/shas/publications/docs/senior_centre_report.pdf