Arts & Culture ... and Aging
Community engagement & arts
Arts programs are essential in a community to help older adults get involved and remain an important part of their communities. Community-based arts programming helps older people—as the keepers of culture—remain dynamic members of society and provides younger generations with positive role models and connections to the past. These relationships encourage a strong sense of meaning and purpose in vital communities.
Grantmakers can support community engagement through the following programs:
Are older artists interested in giving back to your community?
- Through the Artist Outreach Project, the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation awards grants to accomplished visual, performing, and literary artists, age 55 and older. These grants are intended to support the artists' efforts to give back to their community. Artists awarded the grant spend six to eight hours a week with an underserved group served by a nonprofit organization of their choice, sharing their talent in arts-based services that are both educational and therapeutic. One artist, supported with a $12,000 grant through this initiative, teaches teenagers the art of designing and sewing their own clothes through her self-titled SEW (Students Expanding Wardrobes) project.
Are there opportunities to create arts programs with young and old?
- EngAGE runs the EngAGE Across Generations program, which helps older adults become involved with younger people in their communities as mentors, sages, and neighbors. The program offers an opportunity for people to inventory their skills and desires and provides a place where those talents can be utilized to help guide youth through the stages of their lives. EngAGE connects with local schools and other organizations to provide support for their endeavors, which can include intergenerational arts programs, mentoring, read aloud programs, and even filmmaking.
A $25,000 grant from the Meta and George Rosenberg Foundation helped support this program.
- Intergenerational Orchestra of New Jersey runs an Outreach String Chamber Ensemble, which gives free performances at nursing homes and adult day care centers, senior citizens residences and clubs, centers serving persons with disabilities, elementary schools, civic events, and public libraries. The outreach group encourages older adults to begin instrumental music instruction and enables them to play in small string ensembles of up to 20 children and adults of various skill levels.
The New Jersey Foundation for Aging supported the program through a $1,500 grant.
Could your community engage older artists through art exhibitions?
- Interfaith Older Adult Programs, based in Milwaukee, WI, runs the Lifetime Art Competition. This exhibition program includes art and photography created by older adults from southeastern Wisconsin.
The Helen Bader Foundation supported the program with a $10,000 grant.
- Greenburgh Arts and Culture Committee, based in Greenburgh, NY, runs the annual Matters of the HeART art exhibition by Westchester older adults.
The Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation supported this project with a $13,100 grant.
Film productions tackle ageism
- Cooperative Educational Service Agency, based in Green Bay, WI, produced the “Do Not Go Gently" documentary, which focused on older adults who expressed themselves later in life through the arts. The Foley Family Foundation and Elizabeth B. & Philip J. Hendrickson Foundation helped make this film possible.
The Helen Bader Foundation supported this initiative with $25,000 grant to support national outreach efforts.
This documentary challenges the outdated notion that people who reach a certain age have nothing left to contribute. America’s seniors, like those highlighted in Do Not Go Gently, have had decades to master skills and garner accomplishments, often rendering them our best leaders and innovators.
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (WI), Chairman of the Senate, Special Committee on Aging
- New Hampshire Public Television ran the “Seeing Seniors” story series on New Hampshire public television. This program was designed to educate state residents about the needs of older adults in the community, give them and their caregivers access to resources, and build the public will to make changes benefiting elderly in the community.
Endowment for Health supported this project with a $10,000 grant.
What to fund
- Intergenerational art programs that foster mentorship between older adults and at-risk youth while they work together to produce films, write plays, or on storytelling projects
- Cultural and folk arts programs that target older adults who are marginalized due to a lack of English language proficiency by engaging them in their native language
- Providing netbooks to homebound older adults to improve their access to culture and arts
- Museum programs that provide classes, lectures, and discussion groups for older adults
- A community exhibition of art created by older adults in a local theater, library, or community center
- Volunteer programs that engage retirees within the community by respecting and valuing their life’s experiences