Bringing Local Arts and Seniors Together, Creatively

“We want to do more,” says Executive Director Mia Henley

Creative Aging, the Memphis nonprofit that activates seniors’ lives through the arts, is reaching a milestone age itself, turning 20-years-old this year. Recently, PR professional Jeff Hulett sat down with Creative Aging’s Executive Director Mia Henley to gather her thoughts about the nonprofit’s accomplishments, its mission, and her goals for groups’s immediate future.

Jeff: How long have you been working with Creative Aging and what first interested you about their mission and work?

Mia: I’ve been working with Creative Aging since March 2017. I learned about the organization when I was doing consulting through Consilience Group, a firm that does strategic planning and organizational development for nonprofits. We wrote a strategic plan for Creative Aging. Four or five years later, when I decided to look for a leadership position in a nonprofit organization, Creative Aging was looking for an Executive Director. It was serendipitous.

In terms of my interest in Creative Aging’s mission and work, I have always enjoyed working with people who are underserved in some way. So many older people are isolated, live alone, and have limited contact with the community. Creative Aging’s arts programs connect older adults to opportunities for creativity and, equally important, to opportunities to build community. As a middle-aged person, one has many outlets, but once children are grown and the job ends, people’s connections within the community often narrow. Yet, the need to belong and to have a sense of purpose continues, no matter a person’s age.

Jeff: In a nutshell, what does Creative Aging do for active seniors and community-at-large? 

Mia: Creative Aging’s mission is activating seniors’ lives through the arts. What that looks like on the ground is thousands of arts-related events each year designed specifically to bring older adults joy, connection, and community. Creative Aging presents arts workshops and musical performances to older adults at over 90 locations where people live and gather, connecting our participants to live music and dynamic arts classes. We also present our Concert Series; composed of large, community-based events on Theater Memphis’ Main Stage; and partner with local libraries, museums, and theaters to offer Studio Courses. Last year, Creative Aging hosted over 1,500 events that engaged older adults with music and the arts.

All photos furnished by Creative Aging

Jeff: This being the 20th anniversary, is there anything special on tap?  

Mia: Our 20th anniversary is really an incredible milestone! We have connected older adults and artists for a long time, but we want to do more — reach more people, offer more opportunities to participate. In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we are working hard to expand our footprint. There are 135,000 people over 65 living in Shelby County. Almost a third of them live alone and suffer from four or more disabilities. Many older adults have limited or no access to arts and culture. Creative Aging’s goal is to connect these people to the wonderful arts community that belongs to all Memphians. At the same time, our participants gain opportunities to build connectivity within their own communities.

Jeff: What’s one thing you wish people knew about Creative Aging?  

Mia: I wish more people knew what an incredible resource Creative Aging is to the greater Memphis community. Working in over 90 locations, we aren’t far away! It’s easy to get involved with us, classes are free, and the arts are so much fun! Some people defer by saying “I’m not creative”, but the truth is that many people have not even explored their creative side since childhood. We invite you to give it a try!

Jeff: How can people support this important work?  

Mia: People can support Creative Aging’s work by telling their friends and family about us. Almost everyone knows someone who is 65+, and many of us probably know someone in that age group whose opportunities to be involved in the community are limited. We’d love to connect with them! Of course, as a nonprofit organization, people can also support us with financial gifts or gifts of time. We invite anyone who is interested in learning more about Creative Aging to begin by taking a look at our website,, or give us a call at (901) 272-3434.

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