Transcript: Summit on Creative Aging: Reports from Breakout Session 2

BILL BENSON: All right. We're going to try and start momentarily, if I can make sure everyone is in from the hallway. It looks like we've got most folks in here. So we will begin now and start off with an announcement from Beth.

BETH BIENVENU: Thank you so much. I hope you all have energy -- I know it is hard after lunch, but there were some great discussions going on. We have an amazing public affairs department here at the NEA. We have folks at the back, running the webinar, live tweeting -- I would like to welcome Victoria Hutter who will be helping us the rest of the afternoon with the tweeting. They have also produced the NEA arts magazine, a quarterly publication that looks at what is happening in the field of the arts, and they do a wonderful job pulling together articles about our grantees and others in the field. This month, it's all about disability and accessibility in the arts because it is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have a number of articles about an art festival, an arts and medicine program, and a salute to Michael Graves who designed for health care facilities at the end of his life, so it's a nice tribute to him. Please grab a copy. Thank you.

BILL BENSON: We are now going to move to the second discussion question you had in your groups this afternoon. That was, what are the biggest barriers to addressing the needs you had identified in the morning group? We're going to start with lifelong learning, continuing in the same sequence. I think Heather will come up and provide a sense of what their group came up with and then we will open up for a brief discussion after that.

HEATHER IKEMIRE: Hello. We had a fast and furious conversation about the barriers and I think we could have gone on for the rest of the afternoon but we had to boil it down to three. The first is that arts and aging are not equal players at the research table in terms of financial research and the value. We felt that one barrier it is there's not a lot of consensus on what the pillars of research are. We talk about mastery, for example. We try to measure the impact on mastery. What do we mean by that? Are we talking about high-quality arts instruction? Are we talking about people learning something new? What do we mean by social engagement? There is also not shared language that translates across the sectors we are trying to partner with and the funders we are trying to work with and what we are trying to research. Second, there's no joint ownership or collaboration to build a coalition of advocates, in turn, leading to widespread ageism. There is also disparate energy and work happening and not one unifying entity that is collaborating and advocating for this. Therefore the problem of widespread ageism exists. Thirdly, institutions do not have an embedded commitment to lifelong learning. There was a lot of talk about the fact that we are a new and evolving field and with that comes a lot of barriers. Often, we have a fractured approach to the work, often not sensitive to the cultural differences of the work, diversity, and genders that we are working with and we are working often not with, and that is a problem.

BILL BENSON: Let's open it up to see if you have any questions or need any clarification. Once we have satisfied those, we can move on to general commentary about this set of barriers. Here we go. Wait for the microphone, if you don't mind.

TONY NOICE: I'm Tony Noice, Elmhurst College. Just a clarification on what you meant by mastery. Are you talking about the sense of mastery driving the improvement for the arts because people feel like they have mastered something or are you talking about something else?


BILL BENSON: Well put.

JANET BROWN: We spent a lot of time talking about the arts as a new field. We come from a place of scarcity and victimization that does not allow us to demand our place at decision-making tables. We need to take that attitude as a solution, not somebody who says thank you for asking us here. We have come here because we have content, we have a solution, and we are important at this table. That was a big part of this discussion. Also about funding, funding and more funding. And then there is more funding. [LAUGHTER]

MARIE GENNÉ: Marie Genné, Kairos Live. I want to add to what Janet said -- my understanding, not only are we not at the research table, we are not at the livable community table, the design table, the medical table, all of the tables and not just research. We have lots of opportunity. Tables of power, we are getting there.  We are on our way to tables of power.

BILL BENSON: Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] As I roamed across the various groups, I heard references to ageism and number of times. I thought that was interesting to hear that in different groups. We are now going to hear from the health and wellness group, if we can. I think Dorothy Siemon will be our reporter for health and wellness in the arts. 

DOROTHY SIEMON: We identified four barriers. I'm going to list them and give you some highlights from the discussion. Essentially, the first barrier is public interest and attention. Then we put understanding and merged that with another barrier, which is the inadequate communication among all stakeholders. So, that is barrier number one, not only the public not knowing a lot but also a failure to effectively communicate everything from our side. The second barrier was a lack of sufficient inclusion of the arts in discussions of public policy, whether it is health or public policy debates generally.  Barrier number three is not enough effective theoretical models and research methods that are applicable to the arts. There was a robust discussion around research in all of that. And finally a lack of sufficient funding for artists. Let me take them one at a time and give you some highlights of the conversations. In the communication box, the lack of sufficient public understanding and a lack of effective public understanding, the group talked about how we have so much to communicate about this but it is just not getting out there. In some ways, arts has been professionalized in a way that removes it from people's daily life, and we need to get back to integrating the arts for everybody, and communicating that as effectively as possible. There's a need for a creative message, the use of social media, folks talked about the NEA tag of "Art Works" as a more colloquial term that gets out there. There was discussion around service learning models and integrating an inter-generational model in high school about utilizing the arts. Essentially, those are important points to get that communication better. A very practical step is getting the word "art" into the White House Conference on Aging report and trying to understand why it is not there. That was a big point. The second barrier, the discussion around the public policy strategy, the big point there was there are a lot of models we can follow in terms of anti-smoking, breast cancer, all of these broad aspects that were quite effective in terms of getting an issue out there and making some progress on it. The discussion was around how we need to look at lessons learned from those efforts and apply it in this context and see what can be done to push the arts forward in these broader public policy discussions. We need to look for internal champions and stakeholders to do more and a key practical point in the discussion was we need to articulate what the problem is and what the solution is to get action to happen. That was the piece on that barrier. The third barrier was insufficient models and methods. Essentially, there's a recognition that there are not enough models for artists and science to work closely together. There's a need for best practices to be documented and you need to ask the question, why do these models work? We have art interventions that really work and we need to ask the question, "Why do these models work?" and utilize that going forward because that is demonstrable evidence that is really important to ask that question. And look at the impact not only on individuals but the community. Finally, there was a strong point made that we need to go back to the end users. When we are developing these models and research, we need to look at who we are serving and make sure we are integrating their input as these models are developed. The fourth barrier, funding for artists and researchers, the idea was there -- the idea there was to inventory what the funding options are but include more broadly about where the funding sources might come from. Because, traditional funding for promotion and wellness is somewhat silo'd or completely silo'd from funders who might be focused on the arts. The idea might be to look at it collaboratively and think more broadly and creatively about how artists might get funding that's attached to health or wellness intervention and that might be an expansion of what is possible. There's also a notion of trying to change the criterion by which the grant funding is provided through health to infuse a recognition of the importance of arts and we mean that in its broadest concept. Really trying to train artists and researchers together and maybe some closer collaboration there and learning from each other can help both the researcher and artist reach funding they have not reached before. It was a rich discussion and I hope it was informative for you. [APPLAUSE]

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Dorothy. We have a hand up already. Here we go.

GARY GLAZNER: Until we can answer the question of "why the arts -- the word ‘art’ is not included in the White House policy on wellness" as a field, why wasn't that word included, we won't be able to move forward. I want to throw that out to the group as a question for us to think about -- why wasn't the word "arts" included in that briefing?

KATHY SYKES: Now something completely different -- I have a problem with the third statement. Not enough effective theoretical models. I don't know if you need theoretical models, but I know Jennie right here and Maria, and Gary, you are a model. So instead of having them in theory, maybe you should have them in concrete or have still life and have Congress be who you pose for. That was all not serious. I would say about getting the attention on art is a hack-a-thon, that could actually deal with looking at more effective theoretical models -- this is serious now -- or trying to say that we have to include arts in every one of the four areas for the White House Council on Aging and how art works.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, Kathy. The clock is ticking away. I think we are good. Dorothy, you've done a great job. [APPLAUSE] And for our third group, age friendly community design, I believe John Feather is going to come take the stage.

JOHN FEATHER: We likewise had a very robust discussion and some very interesting things arose in conversation. Unfortunately, it's easier to come up with barriers and solutions, but we will have a crack at that later. To start, our biggest problem was that communities need options in all of these varieties of areas, but we have systems in place that really limits the options at the community and federal level and also the individual level. We have not thought of older people as a separate group but part of a larger community. Even within our profession, it is something we debate about. Affordability, and the lack of planned friendly communities and the gentrification, causes many not to have access to services. There was lots of concern about the gentrification issue. We can create communities that have broader access, that have more services and build along the Metro spine like we have here in Washington DC but in the interim it drives the people who have lived there their whole life away from the community because they can't afford it anymore. A lot of discussion about zoning and building codes. There was a sense it's both a barrier and an opportunity. A barrier because they are rigid and hard to change and difficult to have across different communities in some sort of uniform way, but they are a way of at least having a floor underneath us to work on so that we have a basic set of structures and provides incentives and requirements that are often helpful. The difficulty of scaling -- we talked a lot about this issue, particularly around the housing question, that it is a wonderful thing to have a model program, you have a community where you need 10,000 affordable housing units and this is going to provide 50. What does that help us do in terms of the ability to take this to a national and local level, if the progress we are making on these things is slow? We also need more work done on educating and disseminating this information in a variety of fields, design, real estate development, politics, and certainly within the aging field. We don't speak the same language as people in the design world and that often gets in our way of working together effectively. This one we spent a good deal of time on -- we have a lack of vision and there is no urgency. We returned to this issue several times. We seem to still be in this place of somehow we are going to make this work. We have been talking about it for 60 years as the boomers got old and here we are -- there is not urgency, vision or leadership. It is not literally the case, but we don't have nearly the amount of leadership and urgency we need to make this work. A lack of cost benefit analysis in these areas and in valuations to help make the case to the political world and local communities and other constituents as well.

BILL BENSON: Thank you, John. Let's see if we have any questions or commentary.

TOM PROHASKA: Tom Prohaska. One of the things I have been impressed with is the evolution of the “villages” movement. Any comments about the strength and weakness in that potential?

BILL BENSON: Do you feel like it? John, you can talk about almost everything.

JOHN FEATHER: That's a scary thought. [Laughter] The villages are very important because its neighbors helping neighbors. That kind of model as they evolve is more to the point for many of them, "Where do we go from here?" and, once we are a trusted agency for the folks we work with, all of the sudden they will be bringing forward -- I think my son is stealing my money –all sorts of issues and problems and other things for which they were not originally set up. And the sustainability financially for many of villages is problematic. Nevertheless, they are growing by leaps and bounds. It is a nongovernmental way of providing people to come together. So those are some of the strengths and weaknesses.

BILL BENSON: Thank you for that response. Any other comments or questions?

SUSAN PERLSTEIN: I'm making the link between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, age friendly community design focused on universal design, designing cradle to grave. Designing for all people of all ages, building healthy communities. So I'm wondering is there any discussion in your group that included that idea.

VALERIE FLETCHER: Valerie Fletcher, Institution for Human Centered Design. There was a great deal of discussion about that. One of the things that is worrisome is in the years since 1997, when the first principles of universal design were developed, a persistent confusion has arisen about what it is and how it is interpreted. It is a frustration for people like me who do this day in and day out. In a sense, it has diminished and is inadequate to the big idea it once represented. Slavish attachment to one term is probably not a good idea. We've talked about inclusive design, design for all and we need to be expansive. The big vision has never been realized. There's a tremendous amount of work to be done, and there is an anxiety that it can be dismissed by people who say we tried it and it didn't work.

BILL BENSON: I think I am going to hold the conversation because it is time for us to break into our last group. We are in the home stretch. As John noted, it is easier to come up with barriers -- [APPLAUSE] than solutions. Now, it's time to move into that hard part, which is to consider solutions to the barriers to be able to achieve the important things you identified in the first group. Anything you want to add?

BETH BIENVENU: I'm just doing housekeeping and logistics. You may have noticed I did not have any twitter responses as there was not as much of a robust discussion. I encourage folks on the webinar and your colleagues to continue the conversation on Twitter because we would love to hear more from the public. We are going straight to our breakouts and we will regroup here at 4:30.