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The National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore, MD, are joining forces in the Vital Visionaries Collaboration, a program pairing Baltimore elders with first and second year medical students. Concurrent with AVAM's new exhibit on late onset creativity, the two-person teams will embark on a four-part art adventure to learn about the value of creative, self-reliant expression as a healthy aspect of aging.
"The program aims to improve medical students' attitudes towards aging and older people by providing them an opportunity to learn about AVAM's featured senior artists and each other," said Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S., NIA deputy director, who initiated the unique partnership. "We also expect that the program might exert a positive affect on the older people's attitudes towards aging and awaken them to the creative possibilities still available to them." She noted that the research-based program reflects findings that:
- Medical students who interact with older people early in their medical training may have better attitudes towards aging,*
- Older people who internalize negative stereotypes of old age may experience heightened cardiovascular response to stress and reduced longevity.**
*Bernard, Marie A., Chair, Geriatric Medicine, Professor and Chair of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Oklahoma, College of Medicine. An Evaluation of a Low-Intensity Intervention to Introduce Medical Students to Healthy Older People. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2003.
** Levy, Becca, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Longevity Increased by Positive Self-perceptions of Aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Reducing Cardiovascular Stress With Positive Self-Stereotypes of Aging. Journals of Gerontology, 2002.
For more information on health and aging, visit the NIA website, www.nia.nih.gov  or call the NIA Information Center at 1-800-222-2225.