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On this page you'll find all of our stories on the city of Detroit.Suggest a story here and follow our podcast here.

Aging gracefully with the creative arts

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.


The Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation in Detroit has been around for 75 years. People who work at the foundation describe it as a center for creative aging, an opportunity for seniors to learn new ways to creatively express themselves as they grow older.

Christina Shockely, host of Michigan Radio's Morning Edition, spoke with Rachel Jacobsen, the community development coordinator at the foundation.

Jacobsen said that proactive aging allows seniors "to exercise the more creative parts of their minds and bodies in ways that help them age well and also, hopefully, continue to develop into old age."

In one study on creativity and aging, researchers found that seniors who participated regularly in art and culture programs experienced better physical and mental health than those who did not. Participants are eager to attend art classes regularly because activities like painting and jewelry making allow for more creativity and independence than water aerobics.

The classes offered by the Hannan Center for Senior Learning teach poetry, writing and storytelling. 

"That's really important, especially in a city like Detroit that's so rich in history. And oftentimes the histories of minority communities aren't written down so much as passed down orally," said Jacobsen.

Programs like the Hannan Majestic Poets, the Detroit Writers Journal, and oral history projects give seniors the opportunity to creatively reflect on their experiences and share memories with each other. 

Jacobsen explained that:

"In terms of older adult development, a lot of people who are in the older older adult range are in the period of generativity, where it's important to pass on knowledge to a younger generation. That's really important in terms of closure and end of life, but also in terms of developing the young people in our society."

Listen to poems by Majestic Hannan poet Willie Mae Gaskin:

 Let Go

The Truth


-Meg Cramer



Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.