The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) is supporting the first-ever national research designed to assess the impact on older participants of professionally conducted cultural programs. This threeyear project, which I direct, is being conducted in collaboration with two other federal programs-the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institute of Mental Health-along with Washington, D.C.based AARP and the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, New York City.
My book, The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life (New York City: Avon, 2000), summarizes the scientific research that reflects the positive effects of social and productive activities on longevity and overall health in later life. This research overview attracted attention at the NEA: Paula Terry, whose responsibilities include coordinating projects on aging, invited me to examine community-based cultural programs conducted by professional artists and assess the impact of these programs on the health and functioning of older adults.
The Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at the George Washington University, which I direct, became the coordinating site for this research. …