I was able to squeeze in a pre-Thanksgiving visit to my parents in Southern California this past weekend and got an important reminder. Nowhere is the importance of simple gifts more evident than in a retirement community.

Everywhere were the random acts of kindness that we take for granted from caregivers of all kinds, and for those I am grateful. There were also simple but profound gifts that come from ensuring access to moments of inspiration for people whose access is limited -- the creative writing class that is keeping my dad feeling connected to his past and in control of his story -- the art studio that is my mother’s chief solace -- the night out at the symphony with my mom where she met friends and remembered past concerts.

This weekend made me take stock of all the things that arts organizations do in Greater Cincinnati to ensure access to stimulating, inspiring experiences like these for people dealing with the physical challenges of age or disability. Did you know, for example, that the Cincinnati Symphony presents a Friday afternoon concert with a senior discount, attended by hundreds of appreciative residents of local retirement homes as well as by school groups? The CSO has also partnered with Mercy Health to provide seminars and performances that explore the relationship between music and medicine.

Or consider this: our art museums have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati to create “Memories in the Museum”. On the first Wednesday of every month, on a rotating basis, people with memory loss and their caregivers join trained docents at the Taft MuseumCincinnati Art Museum, or Contemporary Arts Center for a free, themed tour and social time. They look at art, discuss observations, and share memories.

Or did you know that at UC Medical Center, Cincinnati Opera singers provide regular public performances in the main lobby and visitor waiting rooms? Cincinnati Opera’s artistic staff also curates a special playlist as entertainment for patients with in-room listening devices.

For pediatric patients battling cancer, the Cincinnati Ballet was able to “live stream” a performance of Peter Pan earlier this month to patients and families at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, bringing the magic and joy of a live performance directly into hospital rooms.

These are just a few examples of how organizations in the Cincinnati region are making the arts more accessible, even as life presents challenges.  According to a 2007 study by Americans for the Arts, nearly half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families and staff. They cite the benefits that the arts bring to mental and emotional recovery of patients, as well as creating a healing environment.

I would bet that percentage has increased in the last seven years, as research continues to show the positive correlation between arts participation and health, healing and happiness – and as arts organizations like the ones in Cincinnati have developed innovative partnerships with healthcare providers to deliver these benefits.

And isn’t that what we all want for our parents, our kids and ourselves – health, wellness and happiness? This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for all the ways that arts organizations and artists make a difference in our lives.