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Creative Aging Classes Encourage Creative Expression

Creative Aging Classes Encourage Creative Expression

Jennifer Brauner is Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) site director for the Center for Senior Enrichment and Creative Aging program. The program began in January 2017 and since the start, seniors 60 and older have been introduced to a variety of offerings, including Israeli dancing, storytelling, reader's theatre, voice lessons and chorus. Most recently added to the mix of classes was a Move and Flow movement class, Reflective Writing and Creative Drawing class.

"Creative Aging" is a national movement aimed at fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and quality of life for older adults. To help older people continue to grow and maintain a quality of life for themselves, so they can learn new skills and continue to sharpen their brain for a healthy mind and body.

The Creative Aging classes are open to all seniors (60 and older) who live in Maricopa County. No drop-ins and payment must be made in advance to get the Zoom links.

What classes are currently offered?
Storytelling and Reflective Writing Workshops, Voice classes, Senior Chorus and Creative Drawing.

What benefits does a person receive from taking a Creative Aging class?
Participants who attend our Creative Aging program receive more individualized attention – to focus on the skills each person wants to learn. The class size is typically 8-12 participants at one time in a series.” “Each class offers a different benefit for the individual in our writing, movement, voice and now drawing classes,” Brauner said. “The classes allow participants to focus on their creativity, attentiveness and enjoyment of being in the moment.

What is the most important thing you tell seniors who come to a class?
Brauner said, “Having fun and socializing with old and new friends is the most important and a huge component in all of our classes at Creative Aging.” Gaining confidence in the classes being explored by the participant is an added bonus!

What advice do you have for seniors who are looking into trying a class?
The main idea of all the Creative Aging classes is to come with an open mind to learn new skills and enhance skills that have already been recognized by professionals in the field of interest.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Melissa Tramuta who facilitates our Reflective Writing series said, “As lead facilitator for Revisionary Arts in partnership with JFCS, my favorite thing about facilitating is listening to the participants react to poems and each other's writing. They are so mindful with each other's stories and grateful when one person shares the unexpected, because it opens the door for others to investigate similar spaces. Writing from vulnerable spaces generates empowering/healing narratives and deepens the intimacy of a group over time. We aren't just writing together; we are creating community within every series to make space for each other's voices.

What do you wish everyone knew about your job?
Brauner said, my job involves more than just opening ZOOM rooms and taking attendance. “Every day I try to think outside the box and create new opportunities that would appeal to the senior community. I spend a lot of time researching programs and speaking to professionals to determine if what they could offer would bring value to my participants. Additionally, I listen to participant feedback to steer the decisions and direction of my program. Providing quality programs is my highest priority and I work hard to meet the needs of all I serve.”

Tramuta said, “What I wish folks understood about our writing series is that you don't have to have a degree in poetry to get poetry, there is power in controlling your own narrative, and we use poetry as the narrative focus because it gives us the chance to explore as many writers and perspectives as possible in our sessions. Whether about depression, joy, divorce, elation, passion, injury, illness, survival: we cover it all, poem by poem, story by story, series by series.

In what ways do you bring Judaism into your work?
Being Jewish and representing Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the values of tikkun olam and g’milut hasadim our important in my work when serving the senior community at large and performing acts of loving kindness to those who participate in my programs.

Partial funding for the classes is provided by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Jewish Family & Children’s Service is a non-profit social service and behavioral health agency serving the greater metropolitan Phoenix area.

This article was originally published in the Jewish News.