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Art Teachers Finding More Retirees in Class

As more of North America's workforce retires, activities for retirees are becoming popular. One of the most popular ways to stay active is taking an art class -- and that means opportunities for art teachers.

Art classes at community colleges, art centers and seniors' centers are all seeing an increase in the number of retirees signing up.

"There is definitely more demand for art programs at seniors' centers," says Christine Corris-Wingfield, a coordinator at a seniors' center.

And the number of retired seniors in North America is growing fast.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census forecasts that Americans aged 65 and older will make up about 20 per cent of the population by 2030 (up from about 13 per cent in 2000).

Plus, Americans now retire as young as their early 50s. While many continue working part time, they have more spare time than before.

That means there are a lot of retirees looking for activities -- and many want to take art lessons.

Retirees are drawn to art classes to explore their talents and to socialize with other people at the same stage in life.

"It's exciting to see people get really involved with something that gives them so much enjoyment," says Corris-Wingfield. She says art classes can provide a creative outlet and a friendly atmosphere at any stage of retirement.

"They may be exploring an interest from years ago that they never had time for," she adds.

Although any qualified art teacher can find work teaching seniors, teachers who already enjoy working with older people will be a better fit.

"The personality of the instructor contributes to the success of many art programs for seniors," says Corris-Wingfield. While her center doesn't require additional training for instructors, she says that patience for little challenges is important when working with seniors.

Corris-Wingfield says seniors are very appreciative students. "I learned quickly myself. I started by teaching seniors. So much of it is social."

Cost can be an important factor for retired seniors. Retirement income can fluctuate, so low-cost art classes and programs will appeal more to seniors.

"We like to keep programs affordable. We pay for the instructor, but students are responsible for materials," says Corris-Wingfield. Her art students pay around $50 to $70 for 10 to 12 sessions.

Fees will vary, depending on the type of art class and the resources of the center offering the class.

"Supply fees will depend greatly on the class and what art supplies they already have," says Teresa Alvis. She is the education director at the Spruill Center for the Arts in Atlanta.

"Painting is the most popular, but we do see enrollment in mosaics, stained glass, culinary arts and gardening."

Alvis says that at the moment, her center does not offer any classes exclusively for retired people. But she is investigating developing classes for seniors.

"Retirement is a time when people are free and they can explore new things," says Sara Craven. She is the director of the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement.

Craven says retired people are glad to be able to take an art class. "Taking an art class can be part of long-term wishes and a chance to try something different."

Seniors are a good audience because they are enthusiastic, eager learners genuinely interested in being in class, says Craven.


Spruill Center for the Arts
A not-for-profit art center

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