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We urge you to share these white papers on Creative Aging with colleagues, policy makers, healthcare administrators and cultural institutions, and older adults.

The Summit on Creativity and Aging in America

The Summit on Creativity and Aging is a new report looks at how the federal government can leverage the arts to foster healthy aging and inclusive design for this growing population. This white paper features recommendations from the May 2015 Summit on Creativity and Aging in America, a convening of more than 70 experts hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Center for Creative Aging. The paper highlights recommendations on healthy aging, lifelong learning in the arts, and age-friendly community design. The summit was a precursor to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, which addressed four major issues: retirement security, long-term services and supports, healthy aging, and elder abuse.

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Thought Leader Forum on Arts & Aging

On April 6, 2011—with support from MetLife—Grantmakers in Arts, the National Center for Creative Aging, and Grantmakers in Aging brought together frontrunners in funding health, wellness, and the arts and aging fields with arts and aging practitioners, researchers, and other experts to participate in the Thought Leaders Forum on Arts & Aging. Twenty-six individuals gathered at the Arena Stage Mead Center for American Theatre in Washington, DC to explore their common ground and the potential benefits of working together. In response to the enormity of the challenge, the group recounted accomplishments, then moved to explore the ways in which their arts-aging collaborations might go broader and deeper. The Forum ended with a shift from thought to action in the form of a set of recommendations that could be pursued.

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Toward a New Policy Frame for Lifelong Learning and Creativity

In the spring of 2012, the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt and the National Center for Creative Aging hosted a first-time discussion in the Nation’s Capital, advancing “Expressive Life” and creative practice as a new approach to connecting public policy with issues of aging. This report is an edited transcript of the proceedings of the meeting.

In comments introducing the topic, Center director Bill Ivey argued that we too often see aging as a barely treatable chronic illness, while in fact later years offer unique opportunities to connect citizens with community and with opportunities for personal achievement. For Ivey, the Expressive Life concept reshapes standard, materialistic definitions of quality of life while pointing toward a new set of helpful public policies – a policy regime especially important to an aging population.

Elizabeth Long Lingo, PhD, revisited her research and pioneering work addressing creative capacity in higher education, extending her understanding of creativity, risk, and innovation developed in university settings to address the special environment of old age.

Sandra Gibson, NCCA Board Member, closed the day-long policy forum, recapping key discussion points while adding her on-the-ground perspective with relevance to those working in health and wellness, education and lifelong learning, and community engagement.

The forum was supported by a generous grant from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.

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The Arts and Human Development

The National Endowment for the Arts released the exciting new white paper, The Arts and Human Development: Framing a National Research agenda for the Arts, Lifelong Learning, and Individual Well-Being. The paper, coauthored by the National Center for Creative Aging, is the result of the March 2011 convening by the NEA and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which showcased research and practice of arts programming across the lifespan. The white paper highlights research on arts across the lifespan; challenges and opportunities, including the need for more long-term arts research; and recommendations to the field, such as the establishment of a federal interagency task force to address the gaps and build research infrastructure for the field. The NEA has since developed an interagency task force of 13 federal agencies and departments to encourage more and better research on how the arts help people reach their full potential at all stages of life.

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The Arts and Aging: Building the Science

The National Endowment for the Arts released a summary report on “The Arts and Aging: Building the Science,” a review of existing research prepared by a federal task force on the arts and human development. As the report notes, an aging population means “dramatic increases in the number of people with aging-related health conditions, including cognitive decline and dementia. Given the arts’ potential to treat, prevent or ameliorate those conditions, additional research is needed to clarify the relationship between the arts and the health and well-being of older adults.”

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Staying Engaged: Health Patterns of Older Americans Who Participate in the Arts

Older adults who create art and attend arts events have better health outcomes than adults who do neither is one of the conclusions in a new report published by the National Endowment for the Arts. Staying Engaged: Health Patterns of Older Americans Who Engage in the Arts presents the first detailed look at arts participation habits, attitudes toward the arts, and related health characteristics of adults aged 55 and older. Staying Engaged is based on results from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), conducted by the University of Michigan with primary support from the National Institute on Aging within the National Institutes of Health.

“Previous studies have found a better health profile for older adults who participate in the arts, compared with those who do not, but much of that research is limited to the study of creating art, or taking part in arts classes or lessons,” said NEA Research & Analysis Director Sunil Iyengar. “This report, by contrast, looks at older adults who either create art or attend arts events, do both, or do neither, and health differences across these groups. The findings, while purely descriptive, will help future researchers to probe the arts-health relationship further.”

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