Exploring older people’s experiences of participatory arts engagement

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HOP Member, Emily Bradfield,  is a PhD student at the University of Derby. She has written a short overview of her research to share with HOP members.

Emily said: “I am a PhD student at the University of Derby and I’m researching older people’s experiences of engaging in the arts and whether participation can lead to improved wellbeing and quality of life.

I have been reviewing existing research evidence on participatory arts (including dance, visual arts, creative writing and theatre) with older people. The studies have explored engagement in different arts, ranging from découpage to Greek dancing!

The research shows that such programmes can lead to enhanced life satisfaction and increased confidence, as well as improvements in some aspects of cognitive function (such has helping with memory and attention).

I’m also exploring participants’ experiences from these studies, identifying patterns across the research and developing themes around the older people’s meaning making. These include concepts around identity and self, relationships and ‘connectedness’, and a sense of belonging and accomplishment.

The next step of my research is to run a series of focus groups (informal group discussions) with older people to gain their insight and experience. These will be held in Cambridge, where I am based, in November in various venues across the city. As well as discussing my research findings (from the review of literature), we will be exploring ways of sharing this research that is accessible, informative and engaging!

I am keen to ensure that my research is made accessible to older people and organisations working to enrich people’s lives as they get older, such as HOP.”


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