Teresa Bonner, Executive Director, Aroha Philanthropies, opens the Museum Summit on Creative Aging. July 29, 2021.
Teresa Bonner: On behalf of Aroha Philanthropies and our founder and president Ellen Michelson, I’m delighted to welcome you to this historic summit. We’re grateful to the American Alliance of Museums, Laura Lott, Elizabeth Merit, and report author Marjorie Schwarzer for bringing us both the summit and AAMS catalytic report on museums and creative aging.
This couldn’t come at a better time. People are living lives that are not only longer, they’re healthier. The vast majority remain cognitively fit well into their 80s and beyond, despite what you might think from looking at popular media. Now it’s time for us to think differently about older adults who have vast untapped potential to contribute to society. We need to understand and build on their assets, not just address the deficits that aging can bring. Creative aging programs give older adults the opportunity to dive into an art form with others who share their interests. Since 2013, Aroha has been leading the expansion of this field with advocacy and grants of more than $15 million. The past few years, we’ve focused on America’s museums and our grantees have achieved extraordinary things. Again and again, creative aging participants report that they’ve created strong new friendships, discovered their creativity, found connections to community, and reawakened their passion for learning and creating.
We’re in the midst of a national expansion of creative aging. Earlier this year, the National Association of State Arts Agencies awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants to 36 state arts agencies to develop or grow their creative aging programs and the National Guild for Community Arts Education sees creative aging as a core program for its members across the country today. Now, it’s time for American museums with your long-term commitment to youth education and your essential relationships with older adults, as neighbors, visitors, volunteers, advocates, and trustees, to take a fresh approach to the experiences you offer people 55 and better. We believe that museums can and must venture beyond their own walls, physical and metaphorical, to develop strong, lasting community relationships, especially with those who have been overlooked as intelligent contributing members of society–older adults. With the capstone report on creative aging, AAM gave us thorough analysis a clear call to and practical, timely advice. With this summit, you will learn so many things that you need to know to take this forward. We hope you’ll take the opportunity and heed this call. Thank you.