Juilliard Extension Division Joint Program Brings the Arts to Senior Living

In June 2023, the Juilliard Extension Division and Sunrise at East 56th, a lifestyle community managed by Sunrise Senior Living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, launched a new joint initiative. The initiative brings Juilliard Extension’s lifelong learning program to Sunrise at East 56th, offering on-site classes in dance, music, and drama to residents. The program offers valuable insights for senior care communities about the value of the arts in senior living and the benefits it brings to residents.

Importance of the Arts in Senior Living Communities

John-Morgan Bush

John-Morgan Bush, dean of Juilliard Extension

The arts play an important role in senior living communities and offer many long-term benefits to residents. “The arts have this incredible ability to captivate our minds and touch our hearts, regardless of age,” says John-Morgan Bush, dean of Juilliard Extension. “They ignite curiosity and inspire creativity in ways that nothing else can. When we introduce artistic activities such as music and movement classes, performance opportunities, and related conversations into senior living communities, we open up a world of possibilities for residents to explore their artistic talents and passions, regardless of their previous experience, not to mention the numerous proven wellness and health benefits.”

Bush also highlights the ability of the arts to connect people, bridge gaps, and create a sense of belonging. “In senior living communities, where social interaction and a sense of community are vital, artistic endeavors can truly make a difference,” he explains. “Collaborative classes, performances, or workshops allow residents to come together, share their stories, and celebrate the rich diversity of their experiences.”

The arts also offer residents lifelong opportunities for personal growth and intellectual stimulation. Bush notes that the arts can encourage residents to challenge themselves, grow their interests, learn new information, and discover hidden passions. “By bringing the arts into senior living communities, we aim to create an environment that values and nurtures artistic expression at any age,” he says. “It’s about enhancing the well-being and quality of life for residents, fostering a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, and celebrating the immense value of artistic curiosity and exploration.”

Bringing the Juilliard Extension to Sunrise at East 56th


Dani Greene, executive director of Sunrise at East 56th

Dani Greene, executive director of Sunrise at East 56th, explains that Sunrise communities all offer signature “Live With Purpose” programming to promote a sense of community, meaning, purposes, engagement, and activity. “Many programs center around art,” she says. “Sunrise at East 56th, for example, features a dedicated art studio fully equipped with top-of-the-line art supplies where residents can take a class or practice their skills on their own.”

“The Juilliard Extension’s joint program with Sunrise at East 56th is the first program of its kind for both the school and the senior living center,” says Bush. The program, which started in June, offers three 12-week semesters with on-site classes in dance, music, and drama. Classes are taught by Juilliard Extension faculty. Residents also have the opportunity to participate in lectures, workshops, and sessions. The program also features livestream events from Juilliard, including pre-concert lectures and performances.

“The Juilliard team connected with us as one of the happy outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Greene. “Music really provided an escape and an outlet for those who were experiencing challenges during that time. With the goal of bringing residents together to develop closer relationships with their peers based on common interests, we wanted this to be an opportunity for residents to not only expand their minds and learn new skills, but also connect with their pasts and own personal hobbies.”

The program builds on strong, existing ties between residents and the arts. “Our residents have always expressed great interest in continued learning as well as programming that’s tied to New York City,” Greene explains. “This collaboration shows how dedicated we are to developing programming that will keep our residents engaged and fulfilled. With classes underway, we have already seen great resident involvement and feedback.”

Future Juilliard Extension Programming

Bush hopes to expand the Juilliard Lifelong Learning Program beyond a single community. “We aspire to expand this program, offering live virtual classes to reach seniors in communities across the United States,” he says. “By embracing the power of technology, we can connect with individuals based in and outside New York City, bringing the transformative benefits of performing arts and lifelong learning directly to their senior living community.”

“For example, consider a senior residing in an area without access to local arts and cultural programs like we are so fortunate to have in New York City,” he adds. “Through virtual classes and performance live streams, they could engage in interactive sessions led by experienced instructors, joining a vibrant community of learners from different backgrounds. This expansion would enable seniors to access high-quality educational content, participate in stimulating activities, and develop new skills, regardless of their location.”

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