Some artists never hang up their paint brushes, and maybe they shouldn't. Many don't even know they have the art bug until later in life when they have more time to explore their interests in retirement.
According to findings from a long-term study of aging, while mental decline often occurs after age 60, participating in creative endeavors can actually stop the decline well into the 70s and 80s. For these reasons and to continue to develop artistically, creative and life-inquisitive seniors may want to consider artist retirement communities.
You don't have to be an established artist, either. After all, many people's artistic talents bloomed later in life. Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the classic "Little House on the Prairie" series, didn't publish her first book until she was 64 years old.
For EngAGE founder Tim Carpenter, the golden years aren't about settling down, and his organization helps bring creative lifestyles to retirement communities.
"It doesn't really matter what your age is; what you want to do with the rest of your life is a better question," Carpenter says.
The key may be finding the right community to help you keep creating--and blossoming--long after you retire.
Learning new skills--whether within your own field of study or in another medium--can help you stay focused and creative while being more involved in daily life. When considering retirement communities, Carpenter recommends looking for those offering professional courses, not just "crafts."
EngAGE--which works with retirement communities in California such as the NOHO Senior Arts Colony, the Burbank Senior Artists' Colony and the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony--uses a college model.
"The programs are on a semester basis and people advance through higher levels of learning," Carpenter notes.
Look for communities offering a wide range of arts classes. For example, the NOHO Senior Arts Colony offers life drawing classes, media labs where people can learn how to cut video and audio, and writing and dancing classes.
Retirement communities focused around art will attract creative-minded individuals, and that can have a positive effect on everyone's social lives. When people share similar interests with their neighbors, they tend to feel more engaged with the community and strike up friendships more easily based on those shared interests.
As Carpenter jokes, "When you go next door to borrow a cup of sugar, you end up getting script notes from your neighbors."
Showing off your work to others can both give you great feedback and help you connect with the community. Some retirement communities understand the importance of this, so they include exhibits and other showcases in their activities.
For example, the NOHO Senior Arts Colony has a state-of-the-art theater open to the public. The Mayflower in Winter Park, FL, hosts the annual Mayflower Art Show featuring fine art by their residents. And those who take a poetry course at the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony can participate in a poetry slam at the end of the semester.
Artist retirement communities don't necessarily exist in a bubble, either. Some have activities to help you cultivate relationships, while learning from and helping the local community. Many studies have shown community involvement can help lead to a happier, healthier life.
For example, White Horse Village in Newtown Square, PA, hosts monthly art exhibits from both local and national artists in addition to art courses and other workshops, while The Mayflower provides transportation to several local cultural and art events.
EngAGE has a multigenerational program that helps bring art to low-income children in the area, and the organization is looking to expand its programs into other states soon.