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Ageing Artfully, The Baring Foundation
A mapping study of Older People and Participatory Arts in the UK

In 2009 the Baring Foundation launched a new fund for arts organisations in the UK working in a participative way with older people. This mapping study primarily looks at the kind of work that could be supported by this fund.

The report begins with the broad context of our ageing society, the discrimination and disadvantage faced by older people and at the voluntary sector organisations that serve them. It moves on to give a picture of arts organisations working with older people based on 120 short case studies, most of them appended at A. It reviews the history of the field which emerged in the 1970s, analyses the case studies using a typology (degree of specialisation, setting, art form and benefits) and notes the lack of specific arts policy and therefore the lack of dedicated funding.

Although museums and galleries rarely offer participative work, their highly significant role is acknowledged. A section on geography considers the distribution of activity across the four countries of the UK as well as the importance of rural provision. In addition to work by professional arts organisations that use participation, it is important to remember that older people also enjoy the arts through being audience members as well as involvement in voluntary or amateur arts and that local authorities and some health and social care settings also make their own provision.

The following section examines in a little more depth the personal and societal benefits of the arts that go beyond the intrinsic worth of creative expression itself. These can be divided in a number of ways but the simplest approach is used here of two inter-related dimensions, health (mental and physical) and personal and community relations. There is some research evidence from the USA on the positive overall effects of participation in the arts on health and there is an increasing body of activity related to dementia. Intergenerational work is growing in the UK and provides a bridge between generations and sometimes cultures too.

It is concluded that this is a neglected issue and while the reasons for this are not obvious, ageism may play a part. The following areas are identified as key to developing this field: research; policy and funding; scaling up of activity; festivals; local authorities and health trusts; partnerships; the regulation of care; networking between arts organisations; practice development, training and standards; major venues; publicity; leadership of older people;
coordination and sector advocacy.

In addition to UK case studies categorised by art form (cross media; performance, dance, drama and theatre, music and song; and visual), short accounts are given of work in the Republic of Ireland, dominated by the Bealtaine Festival in May and in the USA where the National Center for Creative Aging provides a model of coordination and sector development. A short list of selected resources is provided.

Download the pdf below.

You may also be interested in the Ageing Artfully conference in Manchester, in October 2011:

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