Flourishing: arts, wellbeing and older age
What is the effect of engaging in participatory arts on the wellbeing and quality of life for healthy older people?
I am a PhD student at the University of Derby, researching Art for Health in Older Age. My research interests include investigating ‘meaningful’ creative engagement; examining definitions of older age and wellbeing; and considering the language used around such terms, within the creative ageing movement and arts in health discourse. It was great to be at the Flourishing Lives Conference earlier this year and be involved in the discussions around ‘what is wellbeing?’.
I am currently conducting a systematic review of literature (like a traditional literature review, but conducted in a scientific manner, in order to analyse all relevant literature in a transparent and replicable way) on participatory arts and healthy older people. This involves reviewing all relevant evidence including quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research and other ‘grey literature’ such as evaluations of participatory arts projects/programmes.
Due to the relatively strong evidence base for the benefits of engaging in music and singing, my review excludes musical activity, focussing instead on visual arts, drama, dance, photography etc. I am also looking at activity with ‘healthy’ older people in order to relate my findings to concepts such as healthy and creative ageing, so that we can start to see participation in the arts as integral to promoting wellbeing throughout the life course.
I am interested in finding out what effect engaging in participatory arts can have on the wellbeing and quality of life of older people; whether engagement with different art forms has distinct outcomes; differences between active and passive participation (eg art making vs art viewing); and whether there is a relationship between participatory arts engagement and the development of social capital in healthy older people.
As part of my research I am engaging with community and voluntary organisations working with older people and the arts. This will enable me to gain from the knowledge and experience of those working in the field, and to build a picture of the vast range of activity happening across the country.
I also hope to build relationships with organisations throughout my research to bridge the gap between research and practice, by involving stakeholders in my research and opening up avenues for dissemination of my findings. I will ensure that my systematic review is published in an accessible format so that this becomes a useful resource for participatory arts organisations, as well as contributing to the creative ageing evidence base. I am in the process of publishing my own blog which will map my research journey.
If you would like to find out more, get involved with my research, or have any evidence/evaluations which may be relevant, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Bradfield, PhD Student, Art for Health in Older Age, University of Derby