Arts program helps seniors stay socially active

Whether through returning to the classroom or staying physically active, today's seniors have helped shift the public's view of healthy aging, and one organization has added a unique wrinkle to retirement for some seniors. Known as Encore Creativity for Older Adults, the group offers training for everything from acting to singing to dancing, The Washington Post reports.

In one recent event, hosted at New York's Chautauqua Institution, the five-day program is built around putting a production of West Side Story on stage, and it's a goal that's certainly not taken lightly. The itinerary includes morning exercises and role playing exercises, not to mention numerous rehearsals, all designed not only to put a product on stage, but to help the participants, all of whom are over 55, stay active.

The program was founded by Jeanne Kelly, who enlists the help of first-rate theater and singing instructors from across North America, according to the Washington Post. While the art boot camps have started small, the organization recently received a grant from MetLife to help expand its offerings to other cities across the country.

Perhaps most interestingly, the program has been especially beneficial for seniors with health conditions. Among them is Liz Droulard, 74, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although the condition makes it hard to breathe, she still sings with the rest of her group.

"It's been a challenge, but it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling that I’m doing it," she told the newspaper.

Even for seniors who aren't thinking about hitting the stage, the members of Encore Creativity set a good example for staying socially active. A recent Gallup survey found that adults over 65 who spend more time socializing report the highest levels of happiness.