“When you create art, you create something outside yourself.”

“The secret of helping the senior population is finding out what they are passionate about, and then offering opportunities to follow those passions,” said 76-year-old Julia Strimer, participant of the Artful Aging Theater class at Chelsea Retirement Community.

For Julia, this passion is theater.

“I’ve loved the arts my whole life,” Julia said. “When you create art, you create something outside yourself. But in theater, you’re the piece of art. You create the art within yourself.”

Julia Strimer taught for 31 years at Trenton High school. From teaching classes in theater and English, to leading theater production for afterschool plays for 12 years, Julia loves the theater.

“Our theater group was the place in school where all types of kids came—the athletes, the outcasts, the popular and the not-so-popular—and they all got along,” Julia said. “Art does that—it crosses all those boundaries and brings people together.”

UMRC is partnering with Aroha Philanthropies in its Seeding Artful Aging to show how the transformative power of the arts and creativity enriches everyone throughout their lifetime.  Julia attends just one of the five classes that are offered this year: theater, creative writing, ukulele, watercolors and chimes. Every class is led by a qualified and gifted instructor, like Lauren, who teaches the theater class.

“It is such a joy to work with Lauren,” Julia said. “We met two years ago at the Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, and I knew I had to take her class. She is so patient and always willing to help.”

Julia loves staying active and connected in the community. Since she moved to Chelsea Retirement Community three years ago, she started “Monthly Observances,” where she posts beautiful photos and information about Black History Month and Women’s Month, and showcases days such as Earth Day.

Julia not only cares about people and causes, but she stands up for these strong beliefs—even when it has a heavy cost.

“In the 1970s, I was part of the Central United Methodist Church, and we were in downtown Detroit peacefully protesting nuclear weapons, and we were arrested,” Julia said.

This week, this vivacious woman is sporting a black t-shirt with “March for Science” printed on it to support Earth Day 2017. She also has a colorful pin attached to her shirt representing the March for Women earlier this year.

“I am comfortable with being uncomfortable and speaking up for what I believe is right,” Julia said. “That’s why I love theater. I love how people get to be heard in a creative way and how it brings people together.”

If you would like to see Julia and other residents showcase their life stories, or see other upcoming Artful Aging celebrations, check out our events page. All events are free and open to the public.