Arts engagement with the over 60s. Source: Paul Fillingham
The benefits and challenges to older people accessing the arts.
...participation in arts and culture substantially diminished after the age of 75; with more than 2 million people over the age of 75 living alone and more than a million of those speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member less than once a month. (CMM 2017).
Part of the purpose of The Bigger Picture research was to discover what engagement people aged over 60 residing in Nottinghamshire had with the arts. Our comic focuses on their experiences of Nottingham Contemporary. As people are living longer and the population is getting older, Dr. Loretta Trickett outlines some of the benefits and challenges to accessing the arts.
...attention must also be paid to the challenges of declining health and mobility as well as sociodemographic factors such as poverty and isolation that impact upon equality of access and make later life difficult for many.
The UK has an ageing population including a considerable rise in those at the upper end of the age spectrum (over 85s) as life expectancy has significantly increased. In the UK, estimates predict that the proportion of people aged over 65 will increase to 22% by 2030, as opposed to 18% today (DMCS 2016 – 2017)..
Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross. Source: Paul Fillingham
Similar patterns have long been in evidence globally. In the USA in 1999 the number of people over 65 was 34.5 million or 12.7 percent of the population. It was predicted that by 2030 more than 70 million people would be 65 or older and that by 2040, the number of Americans over 85 would have tripled from 2000 –growing from 4.3 million to 19.4 million and outnumbering school children (Hannah and Perstein 2008). Data from the United Nations has indicated that the number of those aged 60 years or over — is expected to more than double by 2050 and to more than triple by 2100, rising from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100.
Comic art panel from The Bigger Picture
As many older people are living healthier lives, are better educated and have more disposable income and time for leisure, they may be an attractive target for arts programmers. However, attention must also be paid to the challenges of declining health and mobility as well as socio-demographic factors such as poverty and isolation that impact upon equality of access and make later life difficult for many.
The DMCS ‘Taking Part Survey’, has been measuring cultural participation and attendance since 2005. Whilst overall levels of engagement with the arts have remained relatively stable since 2005-06, some groups have shown increased engagement including the 65 + age group. For adults aged between 65-74 arts engagement increased from 70.7% to 78.6% between 2005/06 and 2016/17, whilst engagement in those aged 75 and over increased from 57.7% to 62.2%.
Notwithstanding, there are significant differences in the type of activity that older people engage with both as consumers of the arts and through more creative engagement. Despite the clear importance of the arts to some older people there may be significant barriers which prevent many from engaging either fully or at all. In a survey of 700 adults aged 65+ Arts Council England and ComRes (2016) found that only half of older people attended or participated in the arts as often as when they were younger; those who lived alone were even less likely to attend.
Better access to cultural venues was the factor most likely to encourage participation (43%) or help with transport. Other responses indicated that involvement with the arts is not something to be done alone. Having someone to go with would encourage 39% of respondents – 46% among those who live alone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, the ‘Taking Part’ survey found that participation in arts and culture substantially diminished after the age of 75; with more than 2 million people over the age of 75 living alone and more than a million of those speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member less than once a month (CMM 2017). This helps to explain that whilst 76% felt arts engagement contributed to their happiness, and 60% to their health, only half said it was important in helping them to feel less alone. This was in contrast to our focus group respondents who suggested that arts engagement offered a social lifeline after retirement but all of whom were still mobile.
Age UK’s (2018) research on cultural and creative engagement found that the majority (80%) of older people engage with literature, with reading for leisure and using a library service being the most common activities. 71% of older people engage in the visual and performing arts, including visiting museums, the cinema and the theatre; and 68% engage with ‘historical’ activities by visiting historic towns, castles or gardens. However, participation in these activities decrease as people grew older.
Engagement in arts and culture was highest amongst those with a high ‘wellbeing score’. Certain activities were found to be more popular among those at the lower end of Age UK’s wellbeing spectrum, including visiting public libraries and craft activities. Women were more likely to take part in most creative activities than men, in particular dance and crafts.
The report notes that health, finances, access to transport links, caring responsibilities and having people to do things with, all affect whether older people participate in creative and cultural activities. The report calls for arts organisations to work alongside transport authorities and community bodies to make it easier for older people to reach activities as well as more to be done to take art into community settings, including care homes. Age UK also call on local health teams to more formally support creative activities and for arts funders to build requirements for age-friendly practice into their funding rounds.
Taken from Dr. Loretta Trickett Research findings on older people and engagement with the arts, January 2019
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Mentioned in this article
Age UK Report (2018). Creative and Cultural Activities, and Well Being in Later Life
CMM. (2017). Care Management Matters, Engaging Older People in Arts and Culture. Create Survey.
UK Gov. Department of Culture Media and Sport (DMCS) 2006-2007 Taking Part SurveyDMCS Taking Part Survey: Statistical Releases
Hanna, G. and Perlstein, S.( 2008). Creativity Matters: Arts and Aging in America. Americans for the Arts Monograph, 6.