Vitality Arts and Creative Aging

What is creative aging?

The term “creative aging” is generally used to describe two very different program models. The more commonly known type of program focuses on people with dementia and/or residents of long-term care facilities, such as the popular Meet Me at MoMA and Timeslips programs. The second program model is based on multi-session, hands-on, skill-based arts workshops and serves the 85% of older adults who remain independent well into their 80s and beyond. In this latter type of program, participants gain both a sense of accomplishment and the chance to forge new relationships, and research has documented its myriad benefits to the health and wellbeing of older adults. 

Vitality Arts

E.A. Michelson Philanthropy coined the term “Vitality Arts” to describe these skill-based arts learning models. Since 2013, E.A. Michelson Philanthropy has invested more than $15 million in the development of Vitality Arts programs in museums, arts and cultural organizations, libraries, senior centers, performing arts organizations and other organizations.

Elements of Successful Vitality Arts Programs


They are designed to meet the expressed needs and interests of older adults.

Teaching artist-led

They are led by professional teaching artists — working artists skilled in arts education who create space for participants to safely offer feedback, discuss their work and build community.

Experiential and sequential

Students create art, not just learn about it, and each class builds on previously learned skills.


Social interaction and engagement are built into every session, and many class groups continue to meet even after the program ends. Through the pandemic, many participants maintained their sense of community via virtual classes.


They culminate in a celebration of participants’ creations, allowing participants to share their accomplishments and pride with families and friends.

"We have spent our lives working and raising a family, which gave us purpose. Then we lose that sense of purpose. To have someone come along and say, 'You are still viable — let me teach you something new,' it puts a whole new slant on the world!"

— Quote from Vitality Arts evaluation report