A pair of seniors gaze at “The Wedding Dance” during a Thursdays at the Museum trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the United States.

A pair of seniors gaze at “The Wedding Dance” during a Thursdays at the Museum trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the United States.

Photo provided by the Detroit Institute of Arts


DIA’s senior program continues to grow

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 15, 2019

 Seniors learn about Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals, created in the 1930s as a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor force.

Seniors learn about Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals, created in the 1930s as a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor force.

Photo provided by the Detroit Institute of Arts

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/FRASER — The Detroit Institute of Arts has welcomed generations of people through its doors over the years. The age ranges stem from wide-eyed youths to seniors with decades of life experience. As the exhibits change, so do the experiences.

As a result of a successful August 2012 millage in which residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties approved two-thirds of the DIA’s operating budget, the DIA has been able to provide a variety of benefits to residents in the tricounty area, including free unlimited general museum admission; discounted special exhibition tickets; free school field trips with bus transportation; and free group visits for seniors on Thursdays, including free bus transportation.

The Thursdays at the Museum program has especially taken off in recent years, according to David Flynn, the DIA senior vice president of public and community affairs. The program allows for seniors 55 and older to participate in four general activities: highlight tours, feature films, art making and lectures. They are treated to a complimentary coffee and cookie reception following the sessions.

“This is a great program for seniors to experience one-of-a-kind access to history and cultures that they can’t find on TV, in books or the internet,” Flynn said.

In 2018, more than 7,000 seniors participated — an increase of about 2,000 compared to the previous year. Also, in 2017, there were 32 senior groups that participated. Last year, that number exceeded 60 groups.

“We attribute the growth of the program to better community outreach, more targeted marketing and better engagement with community leaders who work with seniors on a daily basis,” Flynn said. “We want to encourage more groups to take advantage of Thursdays at the Museum because some seniors who are isolated from family and friends, this offers them a great opportunity to be part of a group tour and connect and share experiences.”

Debbie Travis, program coordinator at the Clinton Township Senior Center, said township seniors usually visit the DIA every other month. She said 50-person buses are usually filled to capacity.

“(It is) wonderful because transportation is one of the biggest problems seniors face in the form of an active lifestyle,” she said. “What’s wonderful about the DIA is that it never gets old. They’re always changing their exhibits and their offerings.”

She said transportation is key, allowing seniors who perhaps are on a fixed income to take advantage of different programs and see different things. Travis coordinates with the DIA two or three months in advance, advertising trips in bi-monthly township newsletters.

“Everyone is in the same state of mind looking to have fun,” she said. “We don’t get these types of group experiences very often.”

Fraser Parks and Recreation Director Christina Woods oversees senior activities in her city. She said Fraser seniors usually attend two or three times per year, with 20-30 individuals going on the trip.

“It helps the seniors who typically have tight budgets and who are uncomfortable driving, especially in Detroit where the roads can be difficult to navigate,” Woods said. “Also, the DIA is really impressive to visit. I think it makes the seniors feel special to go and be so close to real works from the great artists.”

In order to keep things fresh and relevant, content is often configured to cater to different crowds. Free bus service picks up seniors around noon, they arrive at the DIA at about 1 p.m., and they leave a little after 3 p.m.

Often, the DIA comes to them and other tricounty residents, in the form of more than 20 public presentations in each county. DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons has spoken to educational groups and organizations about the goals and vision for the DIA’s future.

As Flynn put it, the DIA “is working to earn the reputation as the most transparent cultural institution in the state of Michigan.”

“We find that seniors and students alike are grateful to have a unique opportunity to be part of one of the largest collections in the United States, with over 65,000 pieces with every culture and background of civilization,” he said. “People are impressed to understand the DIA was the first United States museum to have a Van Gogh, as well as the Diego Rivera world-renowned mural — which is known for equality, range and depth.”

For more information or to make a reservation, call the direct line at (313) 833-1292 or email grouprequest@dia.org.

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