DiscoverThe Retirement Wisdom PodcastGet Creative in Retirement – Teresa Bonner
Get Creative in Retirement – Teresa Bonner

Get Creative in Retirement – Teresa Bonner

Update: 2021-12-13


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Is it time to get creative? Consistent involvement in the arts offers multiple benefits, including for your health and well-being. Our guest, Teresa Bonner, Executive Director of Aroha Philanthropies, explains how creative pursuits in retirement can enrich your life.

We discuss:

  • Her mission in her encore career

  • Gene Cohen’s work at George Washington University on aging and creativity

  • The range of artistic endeavors she sees people engaging with in mid-to-later life

  • The challenges people face when they leave the workplace and how involvement with the arts is useful

  • The benefits of intergenerational arts programs

  • How getting involved with the arts can help caregivers

  • Her advice for someone who doesn’t think they’re a creative person

  • The benefit of being a novice in an artistic activity

  • How to get started with a creative activity



Teresa Bonner is a frequent speaker on philanthropy, most recently to California and Minnesota affiliates of the Family Firm Institute, estate planning councils and planned giving councils. For Aroha Philanthropies, Teresa leads the foundation and directs efforts to seed, develop, expand and advocate for creative aging programs across the country. She has created cohorts of arts organizations and senior-serving organizations that have developed creative aging programs and managed the evaluation of these programs nationally. Teresa has spoken about creative aging at conferences of Grantmakers in the Arts, Grantmakers in Aging, the American Society on Aging, the Gerontological Society of America, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the National Guild for Community Arts Education and other organizations.

Prior to joining Family Philanthropy Advisors in 2008, Teresa was Senior Vice President and head of Business Development and Charitable Services for U.S. Bank’s Private Client Group, where she oversaw new business development and services offered to high-net-worth clients, including private foundation services, grantmaking, endowment management and charitable services.

In addition to her foundation management roles, Teresa has served as Executive Director of Milkweed Editions, an acclaimed nonprofit literary publisher, and as Executive Director of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, where she directed planning and implementation of marketing, fundraising, promotional, programming, public relations, grant administration and volunteer functions for one of the country’s largest library systems.  Prior to her work in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, Teresa was a partner in the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum.

Between 2001 and 2007, Teresa chaired the board of directors of MacPhail Center for Music, one of the country’s largest community music schools, where she led the transformation of that organization’s governance, successfully completed a major capital campaign for the creation of a new flagship facility, and chaired the Center’s grand opening celebrations.  She has served on several other nonprofit boards and has been a frequent panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Teresa won the “Woman Changemaker” award from the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal in 2004.


For More on Teresa Bonner

Aroha Philanthropies


Wise Quotes 

On Creativity & Aging

“Gene Cohen was such a proponent of the concept that as we get older our capacity for creativity increases. It doesn’t decrease as so many of us were taught when we were younger. And so what he did working with The National Endowment for the Arts, [was] a major study on what happened to older adults who participated in some professionally run arts learning programs. And what he found was that there were a whole array of benefits – mental, emotional, and physical – that came from this kind of activity. People took fewer over-the-counter meds. They improved their balance. There were just a whole variety of things that happened as people became engaged. He found through the interviews and the process of this research that the two keys here were giving someone a chance to have some mastery over something, in other words, a sense of accomplishment. I’ve learned something over 8 weeks and I can do something I didn’t think I could do. The second was the social connection these programs that he studied built in. Social connection as part of the overall experience of taking the class. And for older adults that became a really, really important value. They made new friends. They strengthened those friendships. He found that these two things, when they were both present, really allowed older adults to have better lives.”

On Being a Novice

“I think that anytime you’re involved in something new you come into [it ] with a novice’s eye. You are by definition, right? You may not be saddled with the preconceptions that someone who’s been doing something for a long time has, in many cases. Older adults didn’t have the opportunity to pursue some of these things when they were younger and they might have wanted to do. I’m a great example of that growing up in a very small town in North Dakota. The opportunities weren’t there to do some of those things that would have been really interesting to me. So I think that the novice mindset is actually an asset if you can get past that voice that sits on your shoulder and says I’m not good enough, I’m not creative enough, I’m not smart enough. You have to tell that voice to go sit down somewhere else for a while and then just do what you are interested in doing.  Many of us had opportunities to do something creative in school. And then we got so busy with life and work and making money and parenting and all these things. But if we had kids,  we made sure they had those same opportunities right? So you get to a point in your life where you say ‘Wait a minute. it’s my turn again.’ That’s pretty cool.”


Podcast Episodes You May Like

The Power of Fun – Catherine Price

Lifelong Learning – Michelle Weise

Smarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker

Learning is a Lifetime Sport – Tom Vanderbilt

Successful Aging – Daniel Levitin

What Can You Do to Age Better? – Anna Dixon


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Get Creative in Retirement – Teresa Bonner

Get Creative in Retirement – Teresa Bonner

Retirement Wisdom