White House Conference on Aging

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Woman looking closely at a quilt display

Delegates at the White House Conference on Aging attended a reception and visual art exhibition sponsored by the National Center for Creative Aging and the American Society on Aging. Photos: Gene Feldman.

Every ten years, since 1961, The White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) convenes to make policy recommendations to the President and Congress. The first WHCoA of the 21st century was held in Washington, DC, in December 2005. Its theme, “The Booming Dynamics of Aging: From Awareness to Action,” reflected its charter to develop recommendations for research and action in the field of aging - including 78 million aging baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

Contained in that discussion were recommendations from the White House mini-conference on "Creativity and Aging: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults," held last May at the Arts Endowment. The mini-conference focused on the issues of Arts and Healthcare, Lifelong Learning and Building Community through the Arts, and Universal Design: Designing for the Lifespan.

Despite an explosion in the number of older Americans, many still have limited access to our cultural institutions. This underscores the importance of the mini-conference and the 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

Of more than 3,000 recommendations submitted to the 1,239 WHCoA's delegates, only 50 were selected as WHCoA resolutions. So it is significant that two of the final 50 resolutions emanated from the NEA miniconference:

  • Expand Opportunities for Developing Innovative Housing Designs for Seniors' Needs, and
  • Encourage Community Designs to Promote Livable Communities that Enable Aging in Place.

Both of these issues are illustrations of how important design is to our life experience. Innovative design in these areas can enhance and enrich the quality of life for older Americans by giving them more choices to meet their specific needs. In addition to these recommendations, learning in the arts will be included in other strategies pertaining to health care and civic engagement. The 2005 WHCoA report will be presented to the President and Congress by June 2006.