PA Council on the Arts unveils free, innovative digital platform for teaching artists and older adults

Karl Blischke, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), announced Monday the launch of the Academy for Creative Aging, a free, digital platform that offers a certificate of completion for teaching artists and on-demand video lessons for older adults.

Research indicates that working with artists and engaging in creative activities can decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation in older adults.

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The Academy for Creative Aging, which was developed by a team of industry experts, prepares teaching artists to better understand and support the unique needs of the aging brain. Custom curriculum outlines research in the field and evidenced-based strategies through interactive modules.

“Supporting opportunities for lifelong learning for residents across Pennsylvania is a strategic priority of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts,” said Blischke. “We are excited to launch this innovative platform so that PA teaching artists and older adults have a flexible resource that supports their goals around professional development and quality of life.”

Two tracks are available on the site. The Academy’s Professional Development track provides a module-based, certificate pathway to bolster credentials and deepen expertise and understanding for teaching artists and professionals working with older adults in creative environments.

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To attain a certificate, users must complete a series of online modules containing interactive videos, reading assignments, and resources. Each module ends with a formative assessment that uses prompts to stimulate critical thinking and reinforce the content.

The platform’s Lessons on Demand track provides individuals and groups with the opportunity to explore and enjoy the Academy’s complete video catalog. Lessons on Demand is an alternative to the Academy’s certificate track and aims to provide users with an entertaining and stimulating creative resource, including videos on Indian classical dance, how to create a still-life self-portrait, storytelling through theatre, and jazz singing fundamentals.

“We commend and support the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts on the development of the Academy for Creative Aging. This online platform will extend the reach and opportunities for more individuals and communities to participate in activities that benefit and enrich the lives of older adults,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.

“The Department of Aging applauds the Council’s efforts to promote education of different art forms and to foster creative engagement in a social environment that can yield positive physical and emotional health benefits for older adults.”

“For years, we have used the arts as a way to engage older adults socially and recreationally, knowing we were combating social isolation, teaching lifelong learners new mediums of self-expression, and expanding our evidence practices intentionally to improve the health outcomes of those we are serving,” said Jason Kavulich, director of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging.

“This platform not only provides all of us with a consistent catalog of diverse and exciting online programing, but it also gives us the tools necessary to train and support our local professional artists working with Area Agencies on Aging to design evidence-informed programs to offer to the communities we are serving.”

Inspiration for development of the Academy for Creative Aging stemmed from the PCA’s awareness of a critical need for consistent, professionally designed teaching artist training tools. Combining development of evidence-based creative aging training modules for teaching artists with accessible, video-based art lessons to reach PA’s senior population supports strategic goals of both the PCA and PA Department of Aging (PDA).

Since 2015, the PCA and PDA have worked together to develop the PA Creative Aging Initiative, which was founded on the principle that creative aging programs support healthy living for older Pennsylvanians by providing authentic skill development in the arts, while cultivating opportunities for social engagement at PA senior centers.

Pennsylvania has the fifth “oldest” population in the nation with more than 3.3 million individuals aged 60 years and older and more than 2.4 million citizens aged 65 and older. PDA data estimates that by 2030, there will be more than 3.9 million Pennsylvanians ages 60 and older.

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