BY KELLY KENDALL
The word “aging” conjures up many connotations, most of them negative—from mere forgetfulness to deteriorating health.
But what if aging were seen as a positive? What about the wisdom and perspective that comes with growing older?
That’s what organizers of the Creative Aging Festival want to get across—that having lived a long life is not a liability, but an asset.
“We want to change the way people look at aging,” says Julie Hill, chair of the festival and also the life enrichment director at Bell Trace Senior Living Community. “Life is really about finding your potential, and people have the possibility of making changes in their lives up until the very last day.”
The third annual Creative Aging Festival is modeled after Ireland’s famous Bealtaine Festival, whose motto is “Celebrating creativity as we age.” Both festivals take place all through May, which in the U.S. is also recognized as Older Americans Month. When Hill heard about Bealtaine from a friend, she thought of Bloomington. “I figured it’s the perfect place, because we tout ourselves as being an arts destination and a retirement destination,” she says.
The signature event among the festival’s 25 or so conferences, exhibits, and performances is “Time Travels: An Intergenerational Song and Story Extravaganza,” a May 18 show at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center auditorium organized by singer/songwriter Krista Detor. For months, Detor has been working with residents at Bell Trace to write a song that will be performed by a group that includes singers from ages 5-something to 80-something. The variety show will also include performances by Detor and singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer.
“Seniors are an untapped resource,” says Detor. “After a certain age, people are essentially disregarded as having anything meaningful to offer. To me, that seems ludicrous.”
The festival, sponsored by the city’s Commission on Aging, has three main goals: to showcase older artisans and performers, to cultivate intergenerational understanding, and to make people aware of the positive effects of creatively engaging with older adults.
Bloomington, says Detor, is the perfect place for a festival like this. “Many of us have parents or grandparents here in town,” she says. “Creative aging is about never putting down the paintbrush, never stopping playing the piano. People need to be reminded that they still have something to say.”