Subjective experiences of participatory arts engagement of healthy older people and explorations of creative ageing
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThe aim of this article was to report findings from a qualitative focus group study conducted to understand the subjective experiences of community-dwelling healthy older people engaging in a range of participatory arts activities. The article also uses the participants' voices to consider nuances and interconnections of themes to unpack the complexities of ‘participatory arts’ engagement and support a conceptualisation of ‘creative ageing’. This study involved qualitative focus group interviews. Focus group interviews were conducted with five groups of healthy older people (aged ≥50 years) living in the community (i.e. not in residential care settings). Participants were recruited through self-selected sampling, and on the basis of self-reporting, no diagnosis of ill-health. Focus group interviews were digitally recorded and analysed using thematic analysis. Themes developed from a systematic review of participatory arts for promoting well-being in later life conducted previously by the author were used as the stimulus for conversation in the focus groups. Interviews were not transcribed, rather pseudonymised quotations are used to support the themes. The study also explored barriers to participation, although these findings are not reported here. Subjective experiences of participatory arts engagement of healthy older people focused on everyday creativity and reflections on the term ‘participation’, which challenge the traditional focus of arts and health research on the effects of active engagement. Healthy older people experienced a sense of achievement and ‘flow’ through creative engagement, which led to opportunities for social interaction and developing a sense of purpose. Through transitions of ageing, older people found creative ways of rediscovering their identity in later life, which supported resilience and highlighted a connection between body, mind and soul. Findings suggest that participation in everyday creative experiences can lead to a sense of achievement and purpose, which provides support and structure in the construction of changing identity in later life. Participatory arts engagement is particularly instrumental during transitions of ageing. This study provides a conceptualisation of ‘creative ageing’ which challenges traditional ideas of ‘participatory arts’ and audience engagement by focusing on subjectivities of the participant voice. The framework moves debate beyond a focus on the efficacy of arts engagement to consider the relevance of subjective experiences of everyday creativity in later life.
CitationBradfield, E., (2021). 'Subjective experiences of participatory arts engagement of healthy older people and explorations of creative ageing'. Public Health, 198, pp. 53-58.
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