In this issue of The Creative Aging Resource Newsletter by Lifetime Arts, Diantha Dow Schull (Curator for Lifetime Arts), discusses recent arts participation studies and how their diverse approaches positively impact older adults and the creative aging field.
Diantha synthesized this issue into two distinct questions:
- What do we know about the impact of participation in creative aging programs for older adults?
- Further, what do we know about current approaches to measuring that impact?
In this issue of The Creative Aging Resource Newsletter by Lifetime Arts, we featured four resources which provide an overview of the most significant and advanced new thinking regarding what it will take to create a long life society.
A newsletter excerpt from Diantha Dow Schull:
“The concepts examined are both distinct and overlapping; the theme of lifelong learning is consistently present. They all help us to imagine how arts education will fit into the learning mix — throughout the lifespan — and to envision how creative expression and access to the arts will be essential for the quality of life for young and future generations.”
Psychologist Helga Noice and Theatre Educator Tony Noice have a long record of analyzing the impact of participatory arts on older adults, with a specialty in the relationship between theatre arts and cognition. This article is one of many they have authored, usually based on their own research projects or in some cases on extensive reviews of related research. The article provides evidence for “significance improvements in performance of activities of daily living, as well as standard measures of memory, comprehension ,and problem-solving. “
Since 2009 researchers Miriam Bernard and Michelle Rickett have been involved in a set of related projects under the title “Ages and Stages.” This is a collaboration with researchers at Keele University and theater specialists at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK, that examines the ways in which older people are involved in theatre and the impact that theatre has on their lives.
This report, one of several about the ongoing research, is a detailed case study of how participation by older people in the Victoria/New Victoria Theatre affected their lives.
The findings affirm “the continuing need to challenge stereotypes that the capacity for creativity and participation in later life are unavoidably and inevitably declining; show how participation in active and voluntary activities shapes meanings associated with key life transitions; and emphasize the positive role that theatre can play as a medium for inclusion of both older and younger people.”
This webpage describes the goals and background of a new program for older adults launched in February 2022 by the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University. Talking Memory is designed to enhance older adult audiences’ engagement with the museum, stimulate them to recall their own narratives and create new memories, and promote social exchange in the public space of the museum. It involves a series of sequential programs during the summer of 2022 that comprise gallery talks, coffee discussions, and artmaking related to the collections discussed. The Ashmolean sees older adults an important audience and the new program is intended to foster new connections between audience members, museums staff, and museum collections while fostering increased wellbeing.
In July 2019, The Museums at Oxford University hosted a workshop, “Social Prescriptions” that included testimonials from three participants’ in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Meet Me at the Museum Program, which supports older people and those living with Dementia to be socially connected, creating opportunities for new conversations and learning together.
These extended comments, directly from participants, contrast with the language of more formal evaluations. Each speaker spoke of how the program had helped re-shape his/her life, and built new relationships, new connections with the museum and its collections, and new appreciation for creative expression as a core aspect of life.
This report on The Oxford Museum’s Memory Lane Program is more than an analysis of one program. It provides an overview of the theoretical and curatorial bases for reminiscence and oral history programs while weaving together qualitative information on the development of the program as it evolved since 2009.
The report focuses in particular on the impact of Memory Lane on the wellbeing of participants and on development of a “toolkit” for carrying out similar programs in other museums. It is an important report in that very few academic institutions have conducted in-depth analyses of local history or oral history projects, reminiscence programs and collections handling — activities that until recently were not connected with positive aging and health promotion. By analyzing the impacts of Memory Lane and considering the value of and approaches for extending the scope and depth of reminiscence programs in museum settings, the report is an important contribution to museum professionals working with older adults.
In 2010, after an initial period of operation, the Dulwich Picture Gallery collected information on its program, “Good Times: Art for Older People” from coordinators, artists, gallery teachers, and participants. The emphasis was on their views and experiences. The Oxford Institute on Ageing then used that material to carry out a qualitative program assessment designed “to discover more about how best an art gallery could serve an ageing population.”
The report would be helpful to any museum leader or museum professional considering the design of programs for and with older adults. The report did provide essential background for further program development at the Dulwich. According to Sarah Harper, Director of the Institute for Aging, “The Good Times Programme clearly reveals the important role that our museums and galleries can play in enhancing the lives of older people from diverse social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. “