Ithaca College Gerontology Institute Conference Will Bring Experts On Creative Aging To Campus

ITHACA, NY — The brain is not immune to age-related changes; cells can and do “wear out” with age. But according to Gene Cohen — founder and director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University and keynote speaker at this year’s annual conference of the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute — older people don’t have to lose their mental acuity simply because they’re older. The key, said Cohen, is exercise, both physical and mental.

“Getting creative in your later years is a self-fueling engine,” said Cohen, who holds an M.D. from Georgetown University and a doctorate in gerontology from the Union Institute. “The more you do, the more you can do. . . . Sustained participation in an arts program has a very positive effect on the immune system. It’s that mind-body connection.”

Challenging the notion that mental decline is an inevitable consequence of aging, Cohen refers to studies showing that people over 65 who participated in organized art programs not only learned new skills, they also visited doctors less often, used fewer over-the-counter and prescription medications, and experienced fewer accidents and falls.

Cohen’s keynote address, “Why Creativity Matters,” will kick off “Creativity and Aging: Exploring Community Initiatives,” a daylong conference at Ithaca College on Thursday, Oct. 1. Featuring nine leaders in the field of aging, the conference will include panel discussions highlighting the ways arts organizations and aging services can involve older adults in arts programs as well as presentations of the latest research on how arts involvement promotes physical health and well-being among older adults.

In addition to Dr. Cohen, the presenters will include:

  • Gay Hanna and Susan Perlstein from the National Center for Creative Aging. Located in Washington, D.C., the Center is a nonprofit agency dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and quality of life for older people regardless of their ethnicity, economic status or level of physical and cognitive function.
  • Roy Ernst, professor emeritus at the Eastman School of Music and founder of the New Horizons Band Program, which provides entry points to music-making for older adults
  • Sue Perlgut, performer, playwright, director, story teller, and founder of the Senior Citizen Theatre Troupe of Lifelong
  • Marsha Gildin, teaching artist and administrator with Elders Share the Arts, an organization that connects generations through the art of storytelling
  • Jennifer Haywood, Ithaca College School of Music faculty and conductor of the Ithaca College/Longview Intergenerational Choir
  • Harry R. Moody, director of academic affairs for AARP and author of many articles and books on the humanities and aging, including “Aging: Concepts and Controversies”
  • Martha Strodel, director of the NYS ARTS Rural Arts Program, which serves cultural organizations in rural New York counties

The conference sponsors are the Linden Center for Creativity and Aging, National Center for Creative Aging, Finger Lakes Geriatric Education Center (FLGEC-UNY) and the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.

For more information on the conference, visit or contact Marilyn Kinner, Gerontology Institute outreach coordinator, at (607) 274-1967 or

For questions pertaining to registration or payment, contact the Division of Graduate and Professional Studies at, or (607) 274-3143.

Originally published in News Releases: Ithaca College Gerontology Institute Conference Will Bring Experts On Creative Aging To Campus.

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