Retired people share their experiences of arts organisations in Nottinghamshire
The Bigger Picture - In focus
“The arts provided them with a means for developing social networks outside of the home at a time in their lives when they may have otherwise lost their ‘sense of purpose’ and been experiencing reductions in social contact following retirement.”
In the above film we have edited together audio from our focus groups to give a brief overview of their experiences of arts organisations across Nottinghamshire. The purpose of this research was to help funders develop more inclusive and relevant arts programming for retired people.
“Given the benefits of arts engagement on health and well being, we suggest that retired people should be actively involved in consultation with the Arts Council to help develop outreach and programming in Nottinghamshire.”
The retired respondents (aged 60 +) that took part in our focus group interviews reported important benefits for their health and well being from their arts engagement. The arts provided them with a means for developing social networks outside of the home at a time in their lives when they may have otherwise lost their ‘sense of purpose’ and been experiencing reductions in social contact following retirement.
Respondents reported that the arts provided a social ‘lifeline”while enhancing their autonomy and offering opportunities to continue to ‘learn’ and keep their minds active. These are important components of ‘active’ or ‘successful’ ageing. Activities most singled out for praise concerned involvement in the creative arts where older people were developing their creative skills. In particular, writing groups which were sometimes a vehicle to other activities such as visiting arts galleries or theatre productions. A further highly popular creative activity was singing in an intergenerational choir through a charity entitled ‘Music for Everyone’. A small number of respondents discussed the importance of painting groups which provided a social network. Similarly, ‘The Taking Part Survey’ highlighted that nearly 80 percent of those who participated in creative activities also attended arts events suggesting that it is the act of engagement itself that is most important which was a consistent finding in our focus group research.
Comic art panel from The Bigger Picture
Yet, apart from their involvement with creative activities, our participants were only engaged in a small range of non-creative arts activities; predominantly going to the cinema and sometimes to the theatre or music concerts with friends. Our findings correlate with other research studies on the impact of the arts on the health and well-being of older people including by improving their quality of life, decreasing isolation and increasing social capital. In Age UK’s ‘Index of Wellbeing’, engagement in creative and cultural activities was found to make the highest contribution to the overall wellbeing of someone over the age of 60 (Age UK 2018).
We suggest that arts programming within Nottinghamshire should take the form of a ‘social prescribing’ model (see Age UK, 2018) that contributes to ‘successful ageing’ or ‘active ageing’often measured through studies on ‘quality of life’ and life satisfaction. Given the benefits of arts engagement on health and wellbeing, we suggest that retired people should be actively involved in consultation with the Arts Council to help develop outreach and programming in Nottinghamshire. ‘A Call to Arms Campaign’ around health and wellbeing for retired people could attract older people to become ambassadors for the arts; certainly our respondents indicated that they would welcome such opportunities. Other successful examples of arts ambassadors can be found in the Royal Exchange Company’s Elders theatre group that engages older people in intergenerational activities around theatre productions and the Audience Agencies older people as cultural champions project in Manchester.
The Arts Council in Nottingham and the arts institutions involved in The Bigger Picture should consider working with those that support older people including healthprofessionals and other organisations such as Age UK to ensure that they address the health needs of retired people both at the early stage of retirement (60/65 plus) - and those over 70 and in later old age - who may well have very different needs.
With this in mind, the Age of Creativity is a network of more than 1,000 professionals who believe that creativity and culture supports older people to experience better health, wellbeing and quality of life providing potential collaborative opportunities to increase the arts engagement of older people.
The above article is an extract from Dr.Loretta Trickett’s Literature Review on Older People and Engagement with the Arts 2019
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Age UK Report (2018). Creative and Cultural Activities, and Well Being in Later Life
UK Gov. Department of Culture Media and Sport (DMCS) 2006-2007 Taking Part SurveyDMCS Taking Part Survey: Statistical Releases
Age UK. (2018). How important is creative and cultural participation to our well-being? www.ageuk.org.uk