May 29, 2012
by Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
A Dartmouth College student gets down with members of Young @ Heart, an NEA-supported chorus made up of older adults. Photo by Kawakahi Amina
In my position as Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services I oversee programs administered by the Administration on Aging. As a federal advocate for older Americans, the Administration on Aging is dedicated to protecting the rights of older adults and helping them maintain their health and independence in the community of their choice.
I am also an avid fan of the arts; and I know that research is beginning to demonstrate that social and recreational activities, including creative and artistic ones, can help the brain resist decline while improving quality of health and life. Throughout my career I have witnessed the positive and lasting impacts of the arts in all its forms and how it can lift one’s spirit, improve memory and gait, and inspire creativity for all individuals, including older adults and those with disabilities.
That is why I am excited the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Endowment for the Arts have partnered to create the Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development. We are committed to working together to further the growth of art programs across the lifespan.
As I visit nursing homes, adult day care centers, and senior centers across the country, I see how the arts unleash and encourage self expression and creative engagement in everyday living, especially for those living in long-term care settings. Whether it is a program for persons with dementia, such as the Museum of Modern Art’s Meet Me Project, or creative dance, such as the intergenerational Kairos Dance Theatre, art programs offer an expressive outlet, an opportunity to connect with others and the ability to gain greater self-awareness and self-confidence.
I am committed to integrating the arts with the policies and programs of the Administration on Aging. The National Family Caregiver Alliance (an Administration on Aging grantee) together with the National Center for Creative Aging recently hosted a webinar for arts and aging professionals, and family caregivers that discussed the relationship between the arts and wellness in older adults.
I also recognize that great social programs are founded in great science, and it is important that as the Administration on Aging continues to develop and implement programs it must choose programs that are grounded in science. That is why the Administration on Aging, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, is accepting applications to move evidence-based research findings toward implementation. Applicants should have new interventions, programs, policies, practices, and tools that can be used by community-based organizations to help elderly individuals and those with disabilities remain healthy and independent, and living in their own homes and communities. This is a great opportunity to test the efficacy of art programs. (You can find information about the program here and here.)
As the need for evidence-based social services programs continue to rise, the work of the NEA-HHS Interagency Task Force will become vitally important as it begins to examine existing art programs, how they work, and how they could be successfully implemented in communities across the country.
The work of the HHS and NEA Interagency Task Force includes: sponsoring quarterly webinars highlighting compelling research and practices; coordinating the distribution of information about funding opportunities for researchers and providers of the arts, health, and education across the lifespan; conducting or commissioning a gap‐analysis and literature review of federally sponsored research on the arts and human development; identifying and leveraging joint research funding opportunities across agencies; and hosting a convening with researchers and practitioners for professional development and capacity‐building in the field of arts and human development.
I look forward to working with the National Endowment for the Arts so that the richness of the arts can be experienced by all.
Join us tomorrow for a public webinar on the Arts and Human Development from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET.