Jane O'Brien writes on arts and aging for the BBC from Washington, including a video report.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is funding new research on ways the arts programmes can impact older people's health.
"Most of the studies that have tried to demonstrate these effects haven't really met the rigorous standards of scientific research," says Lis Nielsen, programme director in the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at NIA.
"In addition, there are very few studies that have had a cost-benefit analysis. So if we want to be able to both fund arts programmes and encourage them to be adopted by the wider community we really need to show there are proven health benefits."