Arts and Aging

The “graying” of America promises dramatic change in every aspect of American life. One of the most profound changes is our culture’s very perception of older adults: we’re moving from a “deficit” approach that stresses losses to an “asset” approach that stresses strengths, potential, and achievements.

Dr. Gene Cohen, author of The Creative Age, asserted that while problems certainly accompany aging, “what has been universally denied is the potential. The ultimate expression of potential is creativity.” A critical gap exists between arts provision and aging services for this growing audience. Arts participation is proven to increase the health and well-being of older adults*, however few organizations offer quality professional arts programs for them.

After decades of pioneering work in the research, policy, and practice of arts and aging, providing improved arts services for this segment of the population is gaining momentum. Funding institutions are recognizing the importance of providing creative services for older adults and resources are shifting to support an American society where seniors will soon surpass the school-aged population in many urban and rural communities.

Arts organizations are poised to benefit from this tremendous need for high-quality, cost-effective creative activities. In a range of settings, the arts provide lifelong learning, meaningful community building, and respite to caregivers—all while uplifting individual creative expression. All people wish to grow older with dignity, living independent and purposeful lives for as long as possible. The arts are a key variable that provide meaning and true connection among individuals, families, and communities.

*Cohen et al., “The Impact of Professionally conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health, and Social Functioning of Older Adults,” The Gerontologist, Vol. 46, No. 6. 726-734.

Source: Americans for the Arts