Transcript: Summit on Creative Aging: Introductions and Opening Remarks

May 18, 2015

Beth Bienvenu: Onto the business of the day, I would like to now introduce the NEA's chairman, Jane Chu. Chairman Chu came to us right around this time last year. I was thrilled when she immediately showed an interest in the field of creativity and aging. She met with Gay Hanna from the National Center for Creative Aging, who you will hear from in a moment, who invited her to IONA Senior Services here in Washington, DC, to see this work in action. We spent a wonderful afternoon observing senior arts programs in action. I know that she has the committed to this work, and we are happy to have her here today. Please help me welcome Chairman Jane Chu.

Chairman Chu: Thank you so much, Beth. Thank you so much to everybody for being here today. We really appreciate your support of this summit. I have a personal interest in this. My mother, who is in a memory care unit, also loves singing and the arts. I know when I need her and talk with her, I talk with her every day, but when I go see her, we sing together and do all kinds of things like that, and it equalizes the playing field. I'm very supportive of what you are doing. I know you understand that the arts have this ability to make such a valuable difference on our health, well-being, and ability to participate more actively in the community. Four years ago, back in 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts spearheaded a task force with other federal agencies to create the federal interagency task force on the arts and human development. This task force is very interested in understanding how the arts can help people reach their full potential at all stages in life, including our later years. In working with experts across the disciplines, we have gained a deeper understanding that the arts contribute to the effects of health promotion and disease prevention in those are aging. Because they show stabilization and an overall increase in community activities they further a positive impact on maintaining independence and reducing dependency. They reduce risk factors that perpetuate the need for long-term care. They foster an improvement in morale and a positive impact on depression, less need for medication, fewer physical falls. Music was shown to improve movement in people with Parkinson's disease. Reciting poetry was associated with Alzheimer's patients becoming more vocal and expressive. So I want to thank you all for your attending this summit. I'm very pleased that you are going to add your voice to this discussion because we rely on your insight to help us make better policy recommendations. Thank you on behalf of those whom your guidance will help. We are dedicated to continuing our work in this field and also to supporting the White House in their efforts. Thank you for what you are about to discuss.


Sunil Iyengar: Thank you, Chairman Chu. I am Sunil Iyengar. I am the Director of Research and Analysis here at the National Endowment for the Arts. It is my proud pleasure to introduce Edwin Walker, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration on Aging at the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He serves as the chief career official for the federal agency responsible for advocating on behalf of older Americans. In this capacity, he has done great work in supporting long-term care and home-based care policies for older Americans, as well as championing interventions for chronic disease prevention and preventing falls, for example. I know him personally because, a few years ago, in the same meeting that Chairman Chu referred to, in 2011, when the Department of Health and Human Services met with the National Endowment for the Arts to cosponsor this task force, Edwin Walker was a great support and speaker, a very riveting speaker, too. I wanted to introduce him and thank him very much for coming.


Edwin Walker: Good morning. Thank you, Sunil and Chairman Chu. Good morning and welcome. On behalf of Nora Super who is the executive director of the White House Conference on Aging and on behalf of Kathy Greenlee who is the Administrator and the Assistant Secretary for Aging, within the Administration for Community Living, we are pleased to be here.

I really want to thank you for convening this very important meeting, a Summit on Creativity and Aging, as a lead up event to the White House Conference on Aging. I think it was – where’s Gay – I think it was about a year ago that Gay and a group came to meet with me, and we talked about what to do and strategized about how to make these important issues for the White House Conference on Aging and how to be actively involved. I'm so pleased to see today come about. I'm really looking forward to Bill Benson's presentation on the survey responses and the outlining of the goals for the day. We are quite interested in hearing about the three areas, lifelong learning and engagement, health and wellness, and age-friendly community design. We know these three areas are very consistent with and they fit in neatly to the four policy areas of the White House Conference on Aging -- healthy aging, long-term services and supports, retirement security, and elder justice. What you develop and what you discuss today will be provided to Nora Super, and to the White House Conference on Aging staff, as well as to the policy folks at the White House. And what you develop will inform the conference and will help shape aging policy for the future.

I know that some of you have been involved in White House conferences on aging in the past. As you know, this year, 2015, is quite a significant year for us. It’s the 50th anniversaries of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act. It’s the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act. And, it’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to all of that, it is the decennial year of the last White House Conference on Aging. White House Conferences have taken place in 1961, ’71, ’81, 1995, 2005, and now 2015. I want to personally applaud this White House for moving forward and for planning this conference and demonstrating the significance of aging in this country. Many of you know that, in the past, White House conferences were authorized by the Congress and they received appropriations from the Congress. Despite the president requesting funds for two years, there has been no Congressional response or action along those lines. But, this White House decided to move forward anyway, to hear and to learn the aging issues of this country and to do it in a way that gives us something we’ve been wanting for decades.

You see, those of us in the administration on aging have always tried to find a way, always struggled, to make sure that aging was heard. We've always wanted to get the White House's attention. Now we have the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council serving as the de facto policy committees of the White House Conference on Aging. They are listening and reviewing aging issues on a weekly basis. I've never seen that before.

In addition to that, the Domestic Policy Council has been very strategic. They really have heard us over the years. In the design of the four areas and charging responsibility for managing those four areas and leading those four areas, they were quite strategic. With regard to elder justice, they made the Department of Justice responsible. For retirement security, they made the Department of Labor responsible. For long term services and supports, they made the Department of Health and Human Services responsible, with the secretaries in each of these areas taking responsibility. The fourth area, healthy aging, we heard quite an outcry because they made HUD, housing and urban development, responsible for healthy aging. Those of us in HHS thought we would help them out by saying we could co-chair this with them. We can help them out. It doesn't make a lot of sense. But the White House response was, yes, it does. We've been listening to you. You have been telling us for years there are other cabinet agencies that should have responsibility for aging, that should have an ear toward the issues of aging, and this is the way in which we are going to get them to be responsible, by making them responsible for a policy area with regard to the White House Conference on Aging.

Out of the healthy aging area, there are three subgroups. I mention this so that you will know how you are included. The first subgroup is led by HHS, and it focuses on prevention and chronic disease, management of illnesses, and the like. The second is managed by HUD, which is focused on the built environment including age friendly communities. The third focus is managed by the Corporation for National and Community Services, which focuses on civic and social engagement. I want you to know that so that you will know how these issues fit in.

This White House conference, however, is going to be different. Certainly, with no appropriation and no congressionally prescribed language dictating the design of the conference, it gave this White House an opportunity to be different. And, with no money, it had to be different. We believe, however, that it is no longer really necessary to bring thousands of people to Washington, D.C., in order to get their input. And, besides, there is no funding for the cost associated with a large presence here in Washington. No hotel costs, no money for hotels, food, or travel. So, the White House is using technology, social media, and our federal regional offices to engage with older adults and stakeholders across the country.

So far, we have hosted four regional events, regional forums, in Tampa, Phoenix, Seattle, and Cleveland. The fifth one in Boston will be held the end of next week. These forums are cosponsored by AARP and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations. They are invitation only events, but they are live streamed so that folks across the country can listen and view them on the web. It's all to inform the national conference.

Also, there has been the release of a series of policy papers. I see that one is in your packet today. The policy papers are in each of the four policy areas. They are posted on the web. I encourage you to provide public comment and input.

Further, we have been participating in listening sessions, like today's event. A couple of weeks ago, I see Randella in the audience, there was a tribal listening session in Oklahoma. I know last week or the week before, there was a diverse elders event in L.A. all about hearing from the field from various factions within what we call the aging community to inform the conference with regard to aging policy for the future. Our listening sessions really are confirming the impression that it is the time to shift from the conversation that we have had in the past about what we have heard in the past, about this coming age wave that's going to overwhelm us, and shift to one that recognizes the tremendous opportunities and importance of tapping the power of experience to improve our communities and our societies.

Specifically, with regard to creative engagement programs, Chairman Chu has actually given you the outcomes. We know the value of music, dance, theatre, visual arts, poetry, and storytelling, for example. We know the value to the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being of older adults. Research really is showing that creative engagement programs result in better health, fewer falls, and reduced hip damage, fewer doctor visits, and diminished visual problems.

Some have asked about issuing grants. As I came in this morning, I was approached by a couple of people saying, you guys used to issue grants. Can't you issue a grant for these great programs we have? The truth is, yes, we used to. We used to have a fair amount of discretionary money under the authority of the Secretary, authorized in the law, to look at the field of aging and think about what we need in the future, what would improve the situation of older individuals in this country. But, Congress has cut that funding and hasn't seen fit to restore it. I mentioned that so— that in addition to highlighting the importance of the programs to us—that you collaborate with other stakeholders in the aging community to ensure that the benefits and the issues are highlighted to congressional members as well. They need to know the value of these programs.

The question I have for you is, and that people have asked me is, how can I help? What can we do with regard to the White House conference? The response really is that we at the administration for community living, as part of the support network for the White House Conference on Aging, we will continue to engage in a national dialogue with Americans of all ages to help define those four policy areas and to further sharpen the overall vision of the White House Conference on Aging. Nora and the White House will want your voice as part of the conversation. We truly welcome your thoughts, whether you do it on the website, whether you do it at listening sessions like this one, or through other community activities. We want to ensure that your issues are adequately reflected in the work of the conference and that they help to shape the overall agenda. Again, thank you, and let's get on with the business of the day.


Beth Bienvenu: Thank you. We are so thrilled that HHS is participating in this and that the White House Conference on Aging is supporting this work. I would like to thank you and Nora Super for your support of this event. We are looking forward to a full day of discussion on how the arts and good design can help older adults lead healthy, engaged, and productive lives. We could not have held this summit without the support of the National Center for Creative Aging and Gay Hanna. We started talking about this about a year ago. We decided to partner on this. We have been relying on NCCA's deep knowledge of the field. I would like to thank Gay and her staff, and I’d like to introduce her up here to say a few words.


Gay Hanna: Thank you so much, Beth. Of course, we relied on the deep knowledge of all of you in the room to make this happen. Thank you, Chairman Chu, for your ever present leadership and encouragement. Thank you [Deputy Assistant] Secretary Edwin Walker for your vision and encouragement. I would like to thank you Maura O’Malley for bringing together that meeting that started us all with lifetime arts. It is a joy and privilege to be at this day. The summit was made possible […] through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and our partners, sponsors. Again, let me thank Americans for the Arts, Aroha Philanthropies, DSM Brighter Science Brighter Living, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Pabst Charitable Foundation, Phyllis Cohen, and Walter Kohlstein. I want to be sure I did not leave anyone out. Thank you so much.

This public-private partnership really started in 2005. Susan Perlstein, our founder, here in this room, partnered with the NEA. Paula Terry, who you will meet soon, was a leader. They actually created the benchmark that we will talk about today in lifelong learning, health and wellness, community engagement.

How many of you were here 10 years ago? A few of us here. The field has grown exponentially. It is wonderful to have so many new colleagues here. The excitement of seeing how we can envision the next 10 years. I was glad to speak with Jeffery Levine just as I came in, one of our participants sitting in front of me, who reminded me of the great statement by Matisse. At the end of his life, when he was really confined mostly to his room, he explained that he had lived this long so he finally knew what to do. I don't know how many of you saw the great exhibition at MOMA this past winter. Indeed, he did fabulous work just with scissors and cut out paper. The environment couldn't hold him. He changed the environment. And again, we are not at the end of the aging wave, so to speak. It doesn’t end with boomers like me. But because we have a life expectancy this century which will be close to 100 years old, a pyramid is not a pyramid; it's a column. And, we want to make it very strong through creative expression, the arts and aging. Thank you again.


Beth Bienvenu: Thank you, Gay. I definitely have enjoyed working with you on this project. We are going to dive into the work for the day. We have about 25 minutes. We will cover the logistics of the day and some of the background. So, to dive in for the day. We are here to gather feedback from all of you, from professionals in the fields of aging, arts, and design to contribute to the larger White House Conference on Aging that Edwin talked about. We will be writing up a brief report for the White House and a larger white paper that will help us inform the work we are doing for the next 10 years. This is why your input today is so important.

The goals are to ensure that the arts and creativity are included in federal initiatives concerning the health and well-being of older adults and ensure that the housing and community planning policies include the design needs for older adults. Our day will be centered around a series of breakouts, and you received the questions in advance. Those are also on the agenda for the folks on the webinar. We will be discussing those during the breakout sessions. We will then regroup throughout the day. You should have the agenda in your packet. We will do this three times. Those conversations in the rooms will be very important. We will be documenting through note taking. We will have facilitators to guide the discussion and reporters to jot all of that down and come back in those regrouping sessions to report that out. We invite people around the country in the webinar to listen in on that and also participate. The breakout sessions will be only for the folks here in the room.

We do invite the public to participate. In addition to the webcast, which will be open during the larger sessions, we will have an ongoing Twitter session. Use the hashtag #CreativeAgeSummit and post your own responses to the questions that the participants will be discussing here in the breakouts. You can also post questions using the webcast. We will use those in our final report. We look forward to hearing from everyone around the country.

So, now, I guess we keep saying, we keep wanting to get to the meat of the day. I will introduce Bill Benson, who will be our MC and host for the day. He is a consultant in the field of health and aging policy. He has worked on health and aging issues for over 38 years, including leadership positions in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Administration on Aging. We are in perfect hands for this work, and we are thrilled to have him here. Let me welcome Bill Benson.


Bill Benson: Thank you, Beth. Good morning to all of you and welcome. There are a fair number of you that I know and others that I do not. I look forward to the opportunity to do that through the course of the day. It's a pleasure to be here with all of you. I think the most important part of my bio is that I'm a board member of the National Center for Creative Aging. While we can't acknowledge all of them, we have many of our board members and staff of NCCA in the room. I know they have worked hard along with Beth and the team at NEA to make this summit possible today. Congratulations to all of you for such a great job.

This audience is an amazing audience. I've had a chance to read through the lineup. You are an amazing group, even the ones I don’t know. Just reading your titles and what you do is pretty impressive that means we have high expectations of you. You will produce stellar work because you are a stellar group. That's the expectation for the day.

Edwin gave a good background on not only the White House Conference on Aging but also some of the major events that we are commemorating this year. I will skip over this portion or truncate it somewhat. Since 1961, the federal government has expressed its commitment to improving the lives of older adults by holding periodic White House conferences on aging. Usually every 10 years. As Edwin said, it has been 10 years since the last White House Conference on Aging. Their purpose has been to consider and shape public policy for aging in America for the coming decade. In advance of each of these convenings, the arts and aging communities have held mini-conferences to produce recommendations for the larger WHCoA to ensure that arts, culture, and livability are part of the broader discussions on aging. Previously, the NEA has participated in White House conferences in 1981, 1995, and 2005.

At the 2005 Summit, the late Dr. Gene Cohen, former deputy director of the National Institute for Aging and subsequently director of it, presented a groundbreaking study, creativity and aging: the impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on older adults, which was initiated by the NEA. May I ask here, who has been or participated in a White House Conference on Aging event of any kind? So, many of you have not so this is really your first. That's terrific.

At the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, there were several recommendations that came out of that related to arts and aging. Under the topic of lifelong learning and community, direct funding under the older Americans act to support lifelong learning in the arts was one of the recommendations. For arts and health care, another recommendation was to increase federal investment and developing access to participatory arts programs in community-based and health care settings. With respect to universal design, educate about the importance of designing homes, neighborhoods, and communities that support choice and livability through the lifespan and contribute to reduced costs of long-term care by expanding opportunities for aging in place and improve quality of life for all. I might mention that these last two recommendations that you see here were incorporated into the final package of priority recommendations that came out of the 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

As Edwin said, this is a remarkable year to commemorate much of the great public policy this country has embraced that affects the lives of older Americans, their families, and their communities. As Edwin said, the great Society programs, Medicare, Medicaid, the older Americans act, celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, the Social Security act, its 80th birthday, the ADA, its 25th birthday. And, I might also just add to the list, of course, the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War II, helping to create what we often refer to as "The Greatest Generation."

The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is not only an opportunity to recognize the extraordinary importance of these key programs but also it is the opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade. The White House Conference on Aging will focus on four topic areas which has been mentioned. Retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and support, and elder justice. This summit today will inform the healthy aging category. That is the issue area of the four that we will focus on.

As mentioned by Edwin, the White House Conference on Aging is hosting five regional forums around the country for the White House Conference on Aging. The White House Conference on Aging's leadership has been committed to ensuring that artists and the arts community participates in each of these regional events.

Today's NEA 2015 Summit will focus on three major tracks. One is lifelong learning. Learning is important across the lifespan for us to continue to be generative throughout our entire lives. Arts education is not only for children and youth, but for all of us, especially as we have more free time later in life. Learning and participating in the arts is an especially important part of lifelong learning. This group today will focus on how to expand arts education services and make them accessible in later life.

The second track is health and wellness in the arts. Arts are part of an important well-being throughout the lifespan. A growing body of evidence sites of participation in the arts promotes health and wellness. We heard a number of examples of how it does that. This sector will look across the aging spectrum and address arts participation and positive health outcomes for those who are actively aging in communities and those with chronic illness and those at the end of life, including support for caregivers.

Then the third track is devoted to age friendly community design, expanding from the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, the view of design focused exclusively on universal design. Today's summit will address comprehensive community planning to ensure accessibility to arts participation. Concepts discussed will include different ways of living in community, including home design, affordability, walkability, with the intention of breaking down isolation and encouraging social engagement through the arts and design.

For each of those three tracks, we will have three discussion questions or topics that each of you will take up, each group. These will be addressed throughout all of the breakout sessions. This is what will be addressed by the first track that will begin our first breakout session this morning. It’ll be to answer or respond to the question, what are the biggest issues or needs related to the three topic areas, health and wellness in the arts, lifelong learning in the arts, and age friendly community design? That will be the question for the first breakout group today. The second question will be, what are the biggest terriers to addressing the needs that you have identified in your first breakout group? And finally, the third question, what are the most viable solutions that the federal government can help with in responding to those important needs you have addressed? That is pretty much the substance of what we will be doing. Of course, you will fill in that substance with all of your remarkable thoughts, discourse, and coming up with a listing of the top priorities that your groups think should be put forward.