Kay and his team began to interview older adult artists while hosting creative aging summits throughout southern Indiana. The summits allowed the artists to come together, exhibit their art, and learn from one another. Kay says he wanted the summits to offer solutions to what gerontologists call the “three plagues” of aging: isolation, boredom, and helplessness. Rather than import something, he says, he used the creative aging summits to find what was working for some community elders and share it with the others. “We looked for the exemplar older adults in a specific place and shared that with other folks.” Some of these examples were collected and compiled into the guide.

Activities in the guide can be done by an individual, but participants are encouraged to complete them as a community with emphasis placed on generativity — passing on knowledge to the younger generation. “That is the cultural compact that we have,” says Kay. “It is a psychological, biological, cultural necessity that older adults have to share a piece of themselves, to try to give something to the next generation.” Some activities include interviewing an elder about their life, a folklife game where participants take turns answering questions about themselves, and compiling favorite family recipes.

The guide showcases a wide range of traditional arts such as making miniatures, carving wood, playing music, and quilting, among others. One of the guide’s featured artists is Jenny Kander, who makes her own dolls and is a poet well-known in Bloomington having hosted several poetry radio shows for many years. “Jon made his respect for art and aging so clear and enormously encouraging ever since I’ve known him,” Kander says. Art is important, she says, and it becomes more important as she gets older. “It keeps me in touch with who I am and what I can give others. It literally enlivens me,” she says.

We have been given a gift and the joy and responsibility to share it with the young. Keep creating, there are such rich fields to plow.

Jenny Kander
Kander also recognizes the need to share art and techniques with future generations. “We have been given a gift and the joy and responsibility to share it with the young,” she says. “Keep creating, there are such rich fields to plow.”

“People are bringing beauty, they’re bringing identity, they’re bringing self-expression wherever it is they are,” says Kay. “This is what makes your places distinctive, it’s what makes your community cohesive, it’s what gives you a sense of pride and validation.”

Many of TAI’s first run of 5,000 copies will be distributed to libraries throughout Indiana. The guide is free, and a printed copy can be requested through this form, and a PDF version is available on the TAI website here.
The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.