Effective Practices

This section contains a list of the best practices for designing and delivering arts and aging programs. These practices are adapted from Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit, a publication of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts written by Johanna Misey Boyer. Their work demonstrates that older adults receive the greatest benefits from arts and aging programs that follow these effective practices:

Download the Interviewing for Effective Practices PDF

List of the effective practices

Shows intentionality: The program sets goals to achieve health outcomes and to enhance older adults’ quality of life. The program has clear goals such as mastery and social engagement and defined objectives that have success indicators.

Meet needs: The program is participant-focussed and designed to meet the needs and goals of participants. Older adults are intrinsically motivated to participate.

Demonstrates participatory, sequential learning: Taking into consideration participants’ cognitive abilities as well as (fine) motor skills and making adaptations as necessary, each step is challenging yet achievable. Community art programs are a safe environment where each participant’s work is valued throughout the artistic process.  The process is learner focussed and honour participants’ autonomy.

Includes professional teaching artists:
A professional teaching artist is a professional artist, with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages in learning experiences in, through or about the arts. This toolkit uses the following definition of professional artist: A professional artist makes a living in the field; or the level of their work is seen to be of a provincial/ national level (by colleagues); or are of some profile. (Emerging artists working in conjunction with professional artists may also be recognized as professional) Teaching artists are essential to the success of one’s program—in order to achieve mastery certain technical skills must be taught.

 Evaluates impact: How do you know that what you are doing is making a difference to participants?

Demonstrates excellence and high quality:
By showing intentionality, including professional teaching artists, and following these effective practices, programs demonstrate excellence and high quality. By investing in quality arts programs, taking the time to carefully design, implement, and evaluate community arts program, older adults will receive the greatest long term.

Engenders learning communities:
Recognize the synergy of the entire group in the artistic process—together the group can bring out the best in one another. Groups are learner-focussed, and are a place for support, personal growth, and affirmation. Understanding group dynamics is an essential role of the program staff and administrative staff in finding a teaching artist to facilitate the artistic process. For a newly formed group, establish common goals.

Plans for sustainability: To achieve long term effects, one needs to plan for the long term.

Has circular program components:
 The design, implementation, and evaluation of a program are circular; building off the past (successes and failures) while looking forward to the future (long term goals).

  Please visit the Program Profiles section of the toolkit for local examples of effective practices!