Creative Aging Directory - Kansas City Senior Theatre

Program Title
Kansas City Senior Theatre
Program Summary

KCST is a nonprofit group of professionals and trained volunteers that provides high caliber, theatre-infused community arts programming meant to enrich the lives of older adults in the Greater Kansas City area. They are pioneers in the rapidly expanding field of creative aging and lead local initiatives that promote the vital importance of participatory arts programs. They understand that growing older is too often laden with images of loss and decline. They take an opposite stance, seeing aging as asset and older adults as resource. Their work is grounded in mounting evidence that supports the benefits of creative aging and is aligned with best practices for enhancing quality of life. KCST programs have the potential to improve physical, emotional and social health, increase a sense of wellbeing and life satisfaction, improve memory and cognition and promote meaningful engagement in the community. They provide opportunities for creative self-expression that ignites imagination and lifelong learning that empowers older adults with a sense of mastery. KCST programs are customized to the needs of different groups and individuals, designed and directed with an emphasis on accessibility and intentional outreach to persons who are marginalized, frail or otherwise have limitations. They are a senior-led organization keenly aware of the need for more intergenerational programs. Their approach is inspired by shared life stories that resonate with one another, connecting and creating bonds. Additionally, they develop partnerships with other nonprofit groups in order to build innovative programs that support both the mission of KCST and the partner organization.

Program Background and History

Kansas City Senior Theatre’s mission is to continue and expand the successful arts and aging programs developed by Debra Campbell over the past five years. As sole proprietor of A Couple of Characters, Debra combined her expertise in gerontology with work in drama therapy, creating innovative programs that provide meaningful opportunities for older adults and persons with special needs to engage in the arts. These programs were designed to be intentionally therapeutic, educational, interactive and participatory, customized to the needs and interests of different groups and individuals in a variety of settings; schools, churches, nursing homes, senior centers, retirement communities, health and wellness centers, assisted living centers, libraries, and parks recreation departments.

All programs were grounded in the understanding that there is a vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging, that involvement in the arts improves physical and emotional health, memory and cognition, and vitality of individuals and communities. Participation in arts and aging programs increase a sense of wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Over five years, programs offered through A Couple of Characters were a unique combination of creative arts that fostered life review and life narratives, reminiscence and oral histories, programs that transform memories and life experiences into expressive art forms. Theses varied, from senior theatre performances to intergenerational teaching projects, from creative aging workshops to drama therapy sessions, from puppetry performances to acting classes. Funding for these programs varied. Some involved sponsorship monies and were underwritten. Others were contracted on a fee-for-service basis.

All programs were characterized by the way they celebrated the energy, talents, skills, knowledge, experience, and wisdom of older adults, supported life-long learning, enabled older adults to serve as mentors and teachers, created opportunities for laughter, enjoyment, and creative expression, built relationships through artistic collaborations across generations, sparked memories, ignited imaginations, and inspired spontaneity. The programs enhanced self-esteem and provided a sense of mastery, lifting the spirit, enriching the soul, and transforming lives.

Program-Specific Research and Key Findings
Program-Specific Assessment and Evaluation
Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs
City (Main)
Kansas City
State (Main)
Phone-Phone (Main)
Facebook Link
Twitter Link
Arts Discipline
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus
Creation of Original Work, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus Other
Interdisciplinary Connections
Civic Engagement, Education, Volunteerism
Creative engagement
Target Audience
Active Adults, Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design
Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities
Adaptive Program Design Other
Program Setting
Adult Day Care, Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Assisted Living, Community Center, Education (e.g. School / University), Healthcare - Long Term Care, Library
Program Service Area / Geography
Program Service Area / Geography Other