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Wyoming, Missouri library systems to expand arts education programs for older adults

By 2030, adults 55 and over, will be the dominant demographic group in the U.S and library institutions are adapting to meet their needs for meaningful engagement.

Campbell County Public Library in Gillette (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — A total of 132 public and county library systems in Missouri and Wyoming will develop and/or expand arts education programs that improve the lives of older adults through the Advancing Creative Aging Through State Library Leadership Initiative.

By 2030, adults 55 and over, will be the dominant demographic group in the U.S and institutions are adapting to meet their needs for meaningful engagement.

In partnership with the participating state libraries, Lifetime Arts will train and coach up to 250 librarians and library programmers in creative aging program planning, design, marketing, implementation and documentation.

A total of 100 in person and remote creative aging programs will serve up to 2,000 older adults in Wyoming and Missouri public libraries and build the case for long term sustainability.

Nationally, thousands more libraries and their staff will benefit through networking opportunities and the dissemination of the free and self-paced online course, Creative Aging Foundations On Demand, from Lifetime Arts.

This three-year initiative is made possible through a partnership between Califa GroupWyoming State LibraryMissouri State Library and Lifetime Arts.

The project is supported by a $646,000 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and builds on IMLS’s longtime support of creative aging in libraries. 

“Through this important initiative, Lifetime Arts’ 15-year commitment to public libraries as centers for positive and creative aging will be realized at a large scale not only in Wyoming and Missouri, but across the country,” said Lifetime Arts Co-Founder and CEO Maura O’Malley. “With the support of IMLS and the commitment of our partners, this work will sustain a much needed shift to responsive programming for today’s older adults.”

Creative aging programs are a proven approach to improving older adults’ health and wellness, bringing a revived sense of self and purpose to their lives. While these instructional programs are responsive, they share key elements. Programs are:

  • Led by experienced teaching artists
  • Build artistic skills over time (across all disciplines)
  • Integrate social engagement
  • Include a culminating event to publicly celebrate older adults’ creativity

Libraries are key institutions for creative aging at their core, offering opportunities for accessible learning and community enrichment.

Krisene Watson, program coordinator at the Campbell County Public Library, commented on the creative aging library program.

“This class showed [older adult participants] they could still do beautiful work and create items of beauty even at an advanced age.” Watson said. “One gentleman had resigned himself to watching TV all day long. His wife noticed his declining mobility and mental acuity. She was desperate to find something that would spark joy for him that he could still do. Working with the wood — something he enjoyed doing in his youth — showed him that he could still do the thing he was good at and enjoyed.”

The Wyoming and Missouri State Libraries said they are driven to expand older adult services and contribute to the overall development of libraries as exemplary spaces for lifelong learning.

“Wyoming is a beautiful state full of artistic inspiration,” said Wyoming State Librarian Jamie Markus. “We’re grateful our libraries will now have even more opportunity to bring arts education and enjoyment to our communities’ older patrons.”

In collaboration with Lifetime Arts, Califa Group’s education and training branch, Infopeople, will introduce library workers to Creative Aging Foundations On Demand, a free online guide to planning and developing programs and partnerships to support this important, cross-sector work.

All project partners will present the impact of this initiative at regional, state and national conferences and disseminate project documentation to state library associations and state arts agencies to further advocate for expanded arts programming for older adults. 

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