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Learning does not stop at a specific age.

Most older adults want to stimulate their minds and creativity; participating in arts and cultural programs is one way to do this. As life expectancy increases, more attention is being given to the meaning and purpose of later life.

Older adults who both created art and attended arts events reported higher cognitive functioning and lower rates of both hypertension and limitations to their physical functioning than did older adults who neither created nor attended art, according to the NEA’s “Staying Engaged: Health Patterns of Older Americans Who Particpate in the Arts” report. In fact, among older adults who both created and attended, cognitive functioning scores were seven-fold higher than for adults who did not participate in the arts. And the frequency with which these adults attended art or created art is seen as a factor in their improved health.

Aroha Philanthropies, a private foundation based in Minneapolis, began supporting high quality arts education programs for people 55 and better in 2013. Aroha refers to these as Vitality Arts programs; they empower active older adults to dive into learning an art form in an environment that fosters community, friendship and engagement. Through 2018, Aroha made more than $7 million in grants to support Vitality Arts.

Seeding Vitality Arts is a multi-year initiative launched by Aroha Philanthropies in 2016 to:

  • Demonstrate the power and impact of creative aging programs to a broad audience at both a national and statewide level.
  • Encourage and equip arts and cultural organizations to develop participatory arts education programs for older adults.
  • Encourage and equip organizations that serve older adults to develop arts education programs.
  • Disseminate successful program implementation models.

Fifty nonprofit organizations have received program funding and capacity-building support to develop and implement high quality, intensive arts learning opportunities for active older adults. Aroha’s partner, Lifetime Arts, is providing technical assistance, training and support to all 50 grantees throughout the years of this program, which now has three initiatives: Seeding Vitality Arts US, Seeding Vitality Arts MN, and Seeding Vitality Arts in Museums.

The Creative Center at University Settlement, based in New York City, runs several programs that train artists, administrators, and health care professionals and staff to provide arts programming in a variety of settings serving older adults, from health care settings and senior centers to long-term residential settings for the frail elderly. The Center has developed a training institute for artists and administrators in creative aging that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It will help communities and organizations replicate this program and develop best-practice models in a wide range of environments and communities that wish to implement and sustain an arts program.

Lifetime Arts is a national arts service organization working to build the capacity of a wide range of organizations to develop, deliver, and sustain professionally conducted arts programs for older adults. It promotes the inclusion of arts education programs in organizations that serve older adults; prepares artists to develop the creative capacity of older adult learners; and fosters lifelong learning in and through the arts by increasing opportunities for participation in community-based programming. The organization offers a variety of programs and services, including professional development, technical assistance, and consulting, and partners with hundreds of public libraries, museums, senior housing sites, senior centers, arts councils, and performing and visual arts organizations across 25 states. Lifetime Arts has launched more than 600 community-based programs, serving 10,000 older adults and has trained more than 1,000 teaching artists and hundreds of librarians, arts organization and senior service staff members to design, implement, and institutionalize these programs.

What to fund

  • Community arts education programs for older people
  • Dance and movement classes for older adults in a retirement communities
  • Subsidized tickets to community theater events for older adults
  • Training programs for local artists to learn techniques for working with older adults
  • Individual grants to older artists to support encore careers
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