Founders of the field of Creative Aging

Stuart Kandell

Stuart Kandell has been called a “global pioneer in the field of creative aging” and is nationally known for his leadership of Stagebridge, which he founded in 1978 and ran until 2013. He currently travels around the world speaking, interviewing older artists, and helping governments and organizations develop creative aging programs.

Kandell studied theatre at Northwestern University, received his Master's in Drama at University of Newcastle, England. In 1996, he was the first American to receive his doctorate in Intergenerational Studies from the Union Institute. In 2015 he was appointed a  Research Associate in the Department of Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. 

In his 37 years with Stagebridge, he developed the company from a class at a senior center with five women, to an organization offering 30 classes a week for over 250 people. He created numerous award winning programs, including Storybridge, a national model of training older adults as storytellers in schools; Performing Arts Training Institute, with a wide curriculum of classes; and Seniors Reaching Out, that sends older troupes into senior facilities. Stagebridge is the nation’s oldest and most renowned performing arts center for older adults. Kandell and his work have been featured on CNN, World Monitor TV, PBS and in many national publications and magazines.

For over twenty years Kandell has been a featured speaker and workshop leader at conferences around the globe. In 2002, he joined the founding Board for the National Center for Creative Aging, which is now the nation’s leading center for promoting lifelong learning in the arts. For the NCCA, he was Board Treasurer, a featured speaker, trainer and participant in developing seminal materials. In 2005, he was selected as one of 35 leaders for the Mini White House Conference on Creativity and Aging, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, and a participant at the White House Conference on Aging. Kandell helped plan and run the first National Conference on Creativity and Aging in New Jersey. He lives in Berkeley, California. 


Keynote Speeches

  • Smart Ageing Conference Japan
  • Arts and Health Australia
  • Midwest Arts and Aging Conference
  • Senior Theatre USA
  • University of Utah School of Social Work
  • MetLife National Forum on Brain Health
  • National Positive Aging Conference
  • First National Conference on Creativity and Aging


Susan Perlstein

Susan Perlstein is considered the “grandmother” of the creative aging movement. She founded and directed the National Center for Creative Aging (2001- 2007) and Elders Share the Arts ESTA (1979- 2003)). Currently she is a consultant to the field advising on arts organizational development, training healthcare professionals, artists and organizations. She also replicates ESTA’s award winning programs: History Alive and Legacy Works.

Perlstein studied theater and dance as a child and went on to study with legendary dance companies of Graham, NIkolais, Limon and Open Theater with Joseph Chaikin. She performed professionally and helped found Mass Transit Street Theater: a community based company. As outreach coordinator, she worked with the neighborhood Senior Centers and developed “Living History Theater” and founded ESTA to do that work. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work from Hunter College, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Columbia University Business School.

In 2001, Perlstein founded the National Center for Creative Aging, the nation’s leading center for promoting lifelong learning in the arts. She became the NYC Research Director for the landmark study on “Creativity and Aging.” In 2006 she coordinated the first Mini White House Conference on Creativity and Aging and helped to organize the arts resolutions that were presented at the Whitehouse Conference on Aging (2005). In 2007 Susan organized the first national conference on Creativity and Aging in New Jersey.

For the past 37 years, Ms. Perlstein has been a leader in the field and a featured presenter around the globe. In Taiwan, she continues to replicate ESTA programs which have been designated a national treasures program. She has developed training initiatives which have educated thousands of artists, educators, health care and social service professionals. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. 


  • Hunter College: NYC University - Hall of Fame
  • Flamekeeper Award from Elders Share the Arts Lifetime Achievement
  • Brooklyn Arts Exchange Lifetime Achievement
  • Center for Intergenerational Learning Tennen Award

American Society on Aging Awards:

  • Cavanaugh Award for excellence in “Creativity and Aging” Training
  • MetLIfe Mind Alert Award

Keynote Speeches


National Council on Aging, Generations United, American Society on Aging, National Endowment for the Arts and National Assembly of States Arts Agencies, Maine Arts Commission.


Arts and Health Australia, Long Live Arts Festival Holland, Bealtaine Festival in Ireland, Creative Aging and Health Conference in Australia and in Japan, Taiwan, England, and Scotland.


  • "Creativity Matters: Arts and Aging in America" - Americans for the Arts Monograph, with Gay Hanna, Ph.D.
  • Arts and Aging” Generations Journal, American Society on Aging
  • “Generating Community” – intergenerational programs
  • “A Stage for Memory” – living history theatre
  • “Legacy Arts” – visual arts with frail elders