In Washington DC I take the bus out to Mount Rainier to visit the home of Andy Torres. Andy is in his young seventies and is a former company member of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. He still works with their company teaching classes in the community. I had met him the day before when he was co-facilitating an intergenerational dance session with some younger dance artists.
In their monograph: “Creativity Matters: Arts and Aging in America” ,Gay Hanna and Susan Perlstein cite a study undertaken by Columbia University of 146 professional artists in New York City: “They stay engaged in community life, retain their social networks, and continue to work professionally as well as maintain a personal income and healthcare coverage. Moreover, artists find great meaning and purpose in life.”
Andy meets me as I step of the bus and immediately takes me on a tour of his local area- a neighbourhood in transition. As we wander around he points out all of the small initiatives that he has contributed to make the place feel safer and more comfortable. Small things: moving a temporary toilet that was becoming a hangout for drug users, erecting no loitering signs, and introducing himself to all new arrivals in his street. Maybe this is what ‘Aging in Community’ means.
The apartment block that he lives in is for artists, but it is for people of different ages. “Sometimes the kids that move in here have just left home. They have never lived on their own before. They need a bit of education about what it means to live in a block with other people.”
The man is so different to many of his age that I have seen in retirement communities. He is energetic (despite his dancer’s knees) engaged and curious.