Participation in the arts — whether as a creator, student, supporter or audience member–enhances the quality of life for individuals, providing opportunities for creative expression, socialization and personal fulfillment. For many people, particularly senior citizens, engaging in cultural activity also has significant health benefits.
“Numerous studies have been done regarding the impact of arts programs on the well being of seniors, “ explained Oglebay Institute president Danielle McCracken. “Scientific research overwhelmingly demonstrates that involvement in participatory arts programs has a positive effect on the physical, mental and emotional health and social function of older adults.”
One such study titled “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults” was initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts and conducted by Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Heath and Humanities at George Washington University. McCracken explained that Cohen’s study found that older adults participating in community arts groups used less medication, had fewer doctor visits, experienced elevated mood, showed an increase in the level of independent functioning and did better on scales for depression, loneliness and morale.
Senior citizens play an active role at the non-profit Oglebay Institute, which serves people of all ages by offering year-round arts, cultural, history and nature programs at its six facilities in Wheeling. Seniors participate in programs and classes, teach and volunteer in a variety of roles, she said.
McCracken added that senior participation enhances the overall experience for all OI participants. She said whether it is in an art or dance class, a nature program or a theater production, seniors bring a unique perspective.
“Older adults are creators, mentors and advisors. They share wisdom they have gained through a lifetime of experience. Bringing generations together through the arts enhances the creative process and benefits everyone.”
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She said that while many seniors already take advantage of the numerous opportunities at Oglebay Institute, there are many more who may be unaware of the organization’s programs and activities.
As a way to raise awareness, OI is hosting a free ice cream social/open house from 2 – 4 p.m. Wednesday, August 12 at its Stifel Fine Arts Center on National Road.
The event will include opportunities to tour the historic Stifel mansion and learn about its history, stroll through the beautiful gardens and view the West Virginia Watercolor Society Exhibit on display in the galleries. OI staff members will give presentations and discuss the activities coming up at all OI facilities, including the Stifel Center, the School of Dance, the Schrader Environmental Education Center, Towngate Theatre, the Mansion and Glass Museums. Ice cream and other sweet treats will be served.
“We have a large population of seniors who call the Ohio Valley home. And the number of seniors living in our area will continue to increase. In fact, it is estimated that by 2035, nearly one out of every four West Virginia residents will be age 65 or older,” McCracken explained. “We want to make certain that our seniors are aware of the opportunities available to them at OI to socialize, engage and boost their vitality.”
The August 12 event is open to individuals as well as groups. For more information, call 304-242-4200. RSVPs are appreciated. The Stifel Fine Arts Center is located at 1330 National Road, Wheeling. Parking is free and located just behind the Center.