Vermont Arts Council

Creative Aging

A Creative Aging exhibit at Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2022.
An exhibit of creative work by participants in the Creative Care Kit project, co-sponsored by the Vermont Arts Council, was held in June 2022. The project was a part of the Council’s Creative Aging Initiative, which is now supporting grants to organizations to provide meaningful arts learning experiences for older Vermonters. Photo courtesy Vermont Arts Council.

More than 9 percent of Vermonters are at least 65-years of age, and Vermont is on track to be the oldest state in the nation (65+) by 2032. Vermont also has one of the highest life expectancy rates at nearly 80 years of age. Participating in the arts as one ages can improve emotional well-being, support good health, strengthen social engagement, and bring purpose and joy.

Begun in 2021, the creative aging initiative of the Vermont Arts Council seeks to address challenges that many older Vermonters face, such as isolation and limited access to meaningful arts learning experiences. In addition, older adults all too often experience the effects of ageism. The initiative seeks to develop the capacity of the state to support older adults while promoting health and wellness and social engagement through the arts. Key to this work is the development of a network that includes artists, local arts organizations, Vermont’s area agencies on aging, and service providers for older adults in the state.

The initiative arises from a partnership between the Central Vermont Council on Aging and the Vermont Arts Council and received initial funding in 2021 from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in partnership with E.A. Michelson Philanthropy.

In 2023, the Vermont Arts Council received $95,000 in additional funding from the States Leading Creative Aging, a joint effort of NASAA and E.A. Michelson Philanthropy—one of only nine state art agencies to receive the award. Read the press release.

Creative Aging Grant Program

The initiative led to the opening of the Vermont Creative Aging grant program for organizations, which in 2022 awarded seven grants to Vermont organizations to support skill-based arts instruction and intentional social engagement programs for older adults. In 2023, with new funding, the program reopened on Sept. 1 to accept new applications. See a list of recent grantees.

Creative Aging Teaching Artist Roster

Download a list of teaching artists who have completed a multi-day training with Lifetime Arts on designing creative aging programs that include skill-based, sequential instructional lessons and intentional social engagement opportunities. On the roster you’ll find artists available in your region, information about their artist disciplines, contact information, and associated affiliation(s).

Other experienced teaching artists can be found on the Council’s Teaching Artist Roster.

Read our feature story on teaching artist Susan Rosano, “Successful Aging: Wisdom in Our Communities.”

Our Approach to Creative Aging in Vermont

Research points to the power of Creative Aging activities in improving emotional well-being, supporting both physical and cognitive health, strengthening social bonds, and bringing both purpose and joy to older adults.

Vermont’s vision for an age-friendly state highlights the critical importance of providing accessible and affordable opportunities for older adults to share their time, joy, wisdom, and talents through creative connections. It also centers partnerships when possible, which may include, for example, organizations such as local arts and culture organizations, libraries or other community organizations, Senior Centers, Area Agencies on Aging, or Adult Day Services.

Our grant program places an emphasis on a learning model (rather than a health intervention model). This approach:

  • respects the capabilities of older adults by challenging them to develop artistic skills
  • offers sequential arts instruction in a sustained and organized fashion
  • deepens social engagement for older adults, including caregivers
  • employs teaching artists (including older adults) to design and deliver arts programs for older adults

Resources

  • Ashton Applewhite’s manifesto against ageism, This Chair Rocks, takes aim at how we view age. Her Let’s End Agism Ted Talk reminds us that agism is “a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.
  • The Creativity Matters Toolkit from the National Guild for Community Arts Education offers support to  those organizing community arts and aging programs. It gives others the tools to take the first step—and keep going.
  • The Creative Aging Resource from Lifetime Arts is a hub of hundreds of resources on topics related to the field of creative aging.
  • The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies provides resources for states and community members to build their capacity to facilitate creative aging programming.
  • The Community of Voices choir program documented a community choir’s impact on health and well-being and provides a manual for organizing an older adult choir program.
  • The Creativity and Aging Study from the National Endowment for the Arts led by Gene Cohen documents the impacts of professionally conducted community-based cultural programs on the general health, mental health, and social activities of older persons.
  •  A recent report from the American Alliance of Museums shows how cultural institutions can promote lifelong learning, joy and social connection for older adults.

Professional Partners

For more information, please contact Troy Hickman.

admin-place June 9, 2021