Grantmakers in the Arts Advocates for Life-Long Arts-Engagement

Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is delighted that Congress has passed the Supporting Older Americans Act, including our recommendations that the Administration on Aging include the arts in the issues to be identified and addressed and be included among supportive services for older Americans.

Robust research has identified the benefits of arts engagement as a part of healthy aging as we have been shown by such GIA members as Aroha Philanthropies and Lifetime Arts. GIA advocates for creating access to the benefits of arts and culture throughout our lives, from in-school to afterschool to post-school age, we join our peers in advocating for the inclusion of arts in K-12 education and beyond. GIA is also proud to have also successfully advocated to include the arts as a provision in the Child Care for Working Families Act, which proposes to better help low-income families pay for child-care and expand high-quality state preschool options.

GIA would like to thank member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) for her continued support for the arts in lifelong-learning. Everyone deserves access to arts and culture throughout their lives. We are lucky to partner with representatives in our federal government who agree.

Older Americans Act Bill with Arts Focus Signed into Law

In the middle of all that we are currently experiencing, the President signed the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 into law on March 25th, reauthorizing (Congress speak for updating/changing an existing law) the Older Americans Act (OAA). This law represents the primary dedicated Federal funding to support seniors through home and community-based services. The bill signed into law includes the same expanded cultural and arts focus successfully sought by GIA in its advocacy work.

While the OAA has never prevented funds from being used to advanced art and cultural experiences for seniors, it has never been a major focus or resulted in significant expenditure of funds. The reauthorized OAA changes this. First, the law includes references to cultural experiences, including the arts in the list of issues that should be identified by the Administration on Aging (AoA), the agency charged with carrying out the OAA. This would require the AoA to focus on the arts as it considers how to conduct research and provide direction on services for older Americans. The additional language in the bill will ensure that the AoA prioritizes cultural experiences and the arts in its administration of the OAA.

Second, the law makes clear that supportive services under the OAA include cultural experiences and the arts. Supportive services are a comprehensive set of services that are provided to seniors through various programs under the OAA. The law makes numerous references to supportive services for older Americans throughout all its provisions, which will expand the ability of seniors to gain access to and benefit from the arts and cultural experiences.

Significant thanks for these important provisions go to arts champion and author of this legislation, the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020, Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

The opportunity is now open to those that receive OAA funds or those that work in partnership to maximize their effectiveness. The passage of this law is an excellent reminder to take stock of what work we do with nonprofits and state and local agencies to ensure we take advantage of this new focus to benefit seniors in our communities. These new provisions could further existing partnerships with local arts agencies or the work of local artists with their senior communities. Let’s seize this opportunity for our seniors, when arts and cultural experiences are enriching our lives during such challenging times.