Transcript: Summit on Creative Aging: Reports from Breakout Session 1

BILL BENSON: Alright, we're going to go ahead and get started. We have a very short amount of time to try to hear back from you to encapsulate the extremely lively, and we think very productive, conversation that those of us who have had a chance to roam just a little bit heard. It sounded like each of the three groups approached the discussion a little bit differently. It was lively, even some sort of debate here and there. What we would like to do now is take each of the three groups and have them report out. Each group has a reporter who will share with us for five minutes the summaries of what you groups reached as your top priorities, the top three or four bullets that you have. I want to thank all of the facilitators and reporters, and the recorders, for doing a really thorough job. So, thank you for that very much. We also, through the magic of technology, now have all of your bullets on the screen as we get our reports. We're going to begin with lifelong learning. I want to welcome back all of those who are on the webcast, tuned in with us. Let's bring up our first reporter, Sandra Gibson, on behalf of lifelong learning and the arts.

SANDRA GIBSON:  Well, we had, as many of you did, a very lively and deep discussion using the summary points from the earlier discussions. Right away, these three priorities [referencing the in room slides] emerged out of our breakout work and our work together over the last hour and a half. I think we're ready to present these to you. The first area that emerged was public policy and advocacy. Seeing cultural change, a change in public perception, getting new language, new thinking and perceptions in the public psyche. This is a top priority for lifelong learning in the arts. Our priority statement is, "Leadership to organize a central voice. To develop and assure advocacy and equitable public policy in federal, state and local legislation in regulation, and to eliminate ageism." Next one. Ever important as public policy, are the things we do, the programs themselves. Here the priority is to identify and develop diverse, replicable and adaptable program business models to deliver and sustain lifelong learning in the arts. When we talk about diverse, we are talking about urban, rural, suburban and culture specific. So it's inclusive. Business models include capacity building, partnership development, resource development, access, professional development and training. Our third priority is research. "To analyze the results of lifelong learning, including cognitive change, engagement, quality of life, brain function, to help address gaps between professional language and practice in order to collaborate and share resources effectively to influence advocacy and policy.” It's a mouthful, but really captures it all. I want to thank our wonderful group for bringing this to you.

BILL BENSON: We are going to have a little bit of discussion. But before we do that, Beth, I think you are going to share with us a couple of tweets that came in through Twitter.

BETH BIENVENU: We've started a very robust twitter conversation that has been going very well. I just wanted to point out that Arts Philadelphia was talking about how living with dementia is the reality of today. It's great to search for a cure, but the reality is that we have to live with it today. That is a need for national support in funding. We have to recognize that moving to an institution is not the end of living with meaning. Too many funders give up on those that live in facilities. This was over a couple of tweets that I was able to capture. They were calling for funders and others to ensure that people in institutions are still able to engage in the arts.

BILL BENSON: Thank you Beth, we have a couple of minutes to ask if there is any compelling need for anything to be clarified that Sandra just laid out for us from her group. We will start first there, then we will have just a minute or two.

UNKNOWN: I think that part of what we need to do is recognize that we have an urgent need for information. And thus we have the equivalent of something like bench to practice that should be emphasized.

BILL BENSON: Great point. Really great point. Thank you. Julene?

JULENE JOHNSON: Just wanted to encourage people to look beyond the brain and look at the body function, in terms of the research and effects of the arts.

BILL BENSON: Thank you. Helen?

HELEN KIVNICK: Related to that, we encourage looking beyond already identified outcomes for novel. Which doesn't mean unimportant, it just means hitherto unidentified and uninvestigated outcomes.

BILL BENSON: Great. We ask, if you will give your name and organization before you speak so we have that as part of the record. We have Randella here.

RANDELLA BLUEHOUSE: Hello, this is Randella Bluehouse with the National Indian Council on Aging. I would just like to mention, or advocate on behalf of the American Indian communities at large. Funding to Indian country comes slightly different than to other communities across the country, so I would like to just emphasize that American Indians and Alaskan Natives also be included in the realm of minority aging communities as well as LGBT communities. American Indian communities are very specific and I would like to ensure that they are also named in the process. Thank you.

BILL BENSON: Anne Bastings?

ANNE BASTINGS: I'm Anne Bastings--Creative Storytelling and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. I was going to say if you added ableism to ageism I think you might actually be able to merge the health and wellness fields and the lifelong learning. It feels very similar to the conversation that we had, just about where people are in their health spectrum at that moment.

BILL BENSON: Let's take one more comment and then we need to move to the next group.

KATHERINE LAWLER: This is Katherine Lawler. Just one thing, we have been spending a lot of time looking at how incredibly important older adults are to the economic health to arts in the community. It couldn't stand alone, but as a part of this. There is not an arts organization in our metropolitan area that could survive if they weren't working with older people in one way or the other.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Katherine. We will now move to our health and wellness group. Sandra, you continue to just astound me. Just watching you capture all that is mind boggling to me. Marc Agronin will come up for our Health and Wellness group.

MARC AGRONIN: Thank you. I also want to thank Laura Krejic for writing everything. We also had a very, very lively discussion. It’s difficult to condense whole series of really amazing ideas into a few points, but we will try. The first point would be promoting the importance of promoting awareness of and engagement with arts programs that enhance health and wellness. We talked a lot about the fact that this needs to be done now. There are a lot of programs that are existing that are great that we need to expand upon, but people don’t know about these programs. I would add to that, the comment about minority communities, and multicultural communities is really critical too in terms of this promotion. Second point, we had a really rich discussion about the role of research. We talked about being able to define a broad definition and an array of existing, innovative and novel study designs and outcome measures to support evidence based research. There was a lot of discussion about outcome measures that come from the arts, that come from science, and how you bring the two of them together. How important it is not to restrict ourselves to narrow definitions of what can be looked at and what can be achieved. The third need was identifying and promoting shared values and a common language or nomenclature amongst stakeholders across generations and also across the lifecycle. If everyone needs to talk to each other, they need to be on the same page. They need to realize the shared values that they have in promoting both science and arts and bringing this to bear on health and wellness, and have common language as well. The fourth need we talked about was the promotion of partnerships, not just between artists and scientists but also with healthcare entities, policy makers, and funders as well. That is going to be the engine that is going to drive the creation of these programs. One of the comments that came in at the end, when we were discussing, is that we really want to get these programs going. There is an array of really incredible programs that already exist. How can we promote them more? How can we get funding for them? How can we spread this throughout communities all over the country?

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Mark. Before we open it up for comments, Beth, you probably have another tweet for us.

BETH BIENVENU: Darina Petrovsky, comes from the nursing field. She said that for nursing, the biggest issue is the lack of buy-in from the medical and nursing communities for incorporating the arts. But, it is slowly changing. There is a lack of reliable viable bio-markers to show positive changes with arts participation, again more research. There is a need for interdisciplinary studies to explore the arts and brain connection and a need for more cost-effectiveness studies.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Beth. Mark, I sat in on your group for a good while. When I left, you were still engaging in a lively discussion about research and outcome measures and differences. I'm very impressed with how incredibly you pulled it all together as a group. Let's open it up for any clarifying questions or comments.

SUSAN HOFFMAN: Hi, my name is Susan Hoffman. I'm with UC Berkeley, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I'm about to make a very self-interested addition to your partnership. With artists, scientists, healthcare entities, policy makers and funders, I think it’s important that this happen in context. Oftentimes learning communities that are created within higher education, adult schools, community colleges [are overlooked], and I think that should not be overlooked. The ways in which the learning community is organized both officially as well as informally.

MARETE WESTER: Hi, Marete Wester from Americans for the Arts. One of the things, in addition to partnerships, that we talked about in Health and Wellness was the importance of recognizing the community health and wellness aspect of this in addition to healthcare systems. How the public health experts were saying it is really changing the model and to recognize the beneficial role of the arts in creative arts therapies. Encouraging those kinds of transitional connections between the community and the healthcare system.

BILL BENSON: Right in front we have Sue.

SUSAN GOLTSMAN: Hi, I'm Susan Goltsman with MIG. We are a planning and design firm. I just have a big question. I'm wondering where the concept of happiness comes in. We are all striving to be happy as human beings and yet we keep dumbing that down with wellness or health. It’s a much broader topic. I don't mean to be disrespectful. I'm just wanting to put the discussion at a level that the rest of the world is talking about it. We are not talking about it in this country. Korea has a whole department dealing with happiness. Happiness and the environment. I'm just wondering why we don't talk like that?

MARC AGRONIN: You're comment echoes a lot of the discussion about novel outcome measures. If we are talking about research, not to limit it to the tried and true, but really to think beyond that. I think that would fit in with that very nicely.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Mark.

BILL ELWOOD: I can't speak exactly to happiness measures. I'm Bill Elwood from the NIH Director's Office on Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. There are a lot of related measures in quality of life that often gets at social support, feelings of empowerment, just about every word except the H word. Right? There are also lots of measures on the D word: depression. So low scores on depression would reflect happiness. You're right we don't talk about happy except in Pop music, but there are lots of measures that speak to that in all kinds of different euphemisms.

MICHELE FARRELL: Hi, I'm Michelle Farrell with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. When I see partnerships, one of the things that comes out to us is, some people forget to think outside of the box of a nursing home or a hospital and to think of the library or museum as places to partner to offer these types of activities. You don't have to wait until someone is unhealthy to work with them as they are aging. You can work with them over a period of time. I just wanted to make that point.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Michele. Let's go a couple of more, and then we need to go to our final group.

MAURA O'MALLEY: Hi, I'm Maura O'Malley from Lifetime Arts. The issue of research comes up to me in terms of the impact of this work on organizational structures in programming. How it’s changing community and cultural organizations to deal with this population of older adults. We've done some research on how it impacts professional practice in public libraries. I think that's another area of research. It’s not just the impact on the individual who is participating, but the impact on the organization.

BILL BENSON: Thank you. Now Jorge.

JORGE MERCED: Hi, I'm Jorge Merced from Pregones Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in NYC, and also on the board of NCCA. A question that has come into mind for me as I am looking at this beautifully succinct (compared to our group) bullet point is, what is the role of the space and the highlighting of older adult voice in making these decisions? I'm now questioning how we can make sure that that voice is front and center in everything that we do.

BILL BENSON: Incorporating the older adults’ voices. Thank you, Jorge. Now we will move to our third group. That is Age Friendly Community Design. Karyne Jones is our reporter.

KARYNE JONES: We have a bunch of architects, policy people, artists; it was very interesting. We were challenged with coming up with the biggest issues and needs related to design. Let me just thank Mary Frances for being our consultant and helping us. We came up with maybe 15 different issues and tried to narrow it down to just a few. One of the things that was constant within our theme of discussion was, we know what the demographics are in terms of the aging population and how it’s going to be the largest population that we have faced but we are still in denial about it. It's not just the world in itself; we are not dealing with it or having our policy makers deal it. We need to understand the importance of why we need to pay attention to this demographic. How that will effect so many things, including how we design our cities and communities. When we talked about designing a community that works for everyone, we don't want to do an age-friendly community. We think that any designs and any way that we develop communities should be inclusive. It should include all of the areas, not just aging people but everyone, including disabled, cultural, and all of the other aspects of communities. We looked at creating a community that works for everyone. We broke it down into a lot of micro-issues that have to be dealt with. Also, of course, macro aspects of working with those design communities. We talked about the critical importance of transportation and design as you age, even if you are younger: how you get to a destination, how you return home. The accessibility of that is important to a community. Transportation became a really big part of how we look at designs within community. We had all different aspects of that. We had to focus in on bringing it to a bullet point. Age friendly design at its best, are efficient, effective and equitable for all. Communities that are rural, frontier, with different cultures, different aspects. That all has to be included in that. Designing communities that are inclusive. Making people feel like there really is community and not just aspects of it. There were some people who said that they don't like areas that are just designed for older people. There were others in our community that said that there are some groups that prefer to be around older people and don't want to necessarily be in that everybody kind of community. The choice needs to be there as we look at design. Overall, everyone agreed that we want to design cities and communities that include everyone. We should think forward, not just people that are older, but as a life span. I'm sure we have some people that might want to add something to that.

BILL BENSON: We will go Randella and then we will come back to you. Karen, thank you very much.

RANDELLA BLUEHOUSE: Just want to add once again, the emphasis about American Indian communities. We have 566 tribes across the country that are sovereign nations. They specifically receive funding through a different source through the federal government. I just want to mention that the Indian community cannot be left off. We are not just a minority group; tribal communities have a sovereignty status. They are a political group with the federal government. Emphasizing that they not be left off in terms of recommending groups, minorities, LGBT communities. Also Indian communities are also off the grid. Just not considered. So please the emphasis there. Thank you.

KARYNE JONES: We can certainly consider those. They are part, when you talk about the design communities. I didn't get into gentrification and what that is doing to the African American community, but we certainly have all of those things to think about as we move forward in planning our communities.

MARSHA MAZZ: I'm Marsha Mazz, with the US access board. We can’t just talk about physical design or bricks and mortar. We have got to pay attention to proving accessible information and communications technology. The federal government is required to be accessible on its websites and information communications technology. However, there is not similar law with respect to the private sector. As we create this information superhighway, we are also widening the gap between all sorts of populations and more privileged people. We're needing to train people to use information technology, we need to make it accessible. If it is not, all of the training in the world won’t help. If we leave this out of this day's conference, I think that we are missing an opportunity to hold the administration accountable for paying attention to something that the administration is already pretty friendly about. I mean, we're twittering here. I don t know how accessible twitter is. I don't know how many people over 65 are tweeting. We have to pay attention to that or we are going to disenfranchise folks.

MARIA GENNÉ: Maria Genné, Kairos Live, Minneapolis, MN. I want to suggest that as we look at this, there is a metaphor that as artists many of us know about which is collaboration. I would love to see this in this description because it is not only developing silos for people to stay and be safe and be able to walk. How can we create communities that allow for interaction, collaboration, creativity and imagination?  I would love to see at least some of those words in there because we all know how to do that.

TOM PROHASKA:  Tom Prohaska, George Mason University. I would like to make known that there have been major advances, especially in the last five years in age friendly communities. To the point where we really have advances in walkability, wayfinding, barrier facilitation, community engagement, person environment, home build, natural environment, and we are at a point where we have best practices in community construction for older adults. I hope we bring this best practices into the nature of the conversation.

BILL BENSON: Thank you for the groups reporting out and also for your comments. It was helpful to the dialogue and you kept them short, which was very good.