Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-jwnkl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-15T14:04:39.990Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

A Community-Engaged Art Program for Older People: Fostering Social Inclusion*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Elaine Moody
The University of British Columbia
Alison Phinney*
The University of British Columbia
Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: Alison Phinney, R.N., Ph.D. Associate Professor, School of Nursing University of British Columbia T201-2211 Wesbrook Mall Vancouver, BC V6T 2B5 (


Social inclusion is an important factor in promoting optimum health and wellness for older adults. Community-engaged arts (CEA) have been promoted as a means to support social inclusion for this population, but little empirical evidence has been reported. The objective of this study was to explore the role of a CEA program in the social inclusion of older, community-dwelling adults. Sixteen hours of participant observation, nine interviews, and document analyses were conducted with 20 older adults participating in the Arts, Health and Seniors (AHS) Program in Vancouver. Results indicated that the program supported seniors’ capacity to connect to community in new ways by helping them forge connections beyond the seniors centre. Participants also developed a stronger sense of community through collaboration as a group, working together on the arts project towards a final demonstration to the larger community. The results suggest that CEA programs contribute to social inclusion for older people.


L’inclusion sociale est un facteur important pour promouvoir la santé optimale et le bien-être des personnes âgées. Les arts communautaires engagés (ACE) ont été promus comme moyen de soutenir l’inclusion sociale des personnes âgées, mais peu de preuves empiriques ont été rapportées. Le but de cette étude était d’explorer le rôle d’un programme de l’ACE dans la promotion de l’inclusion sociale des personnes âgées résidant dans la communauté. Seize heures d’observation des participants, neuf entretiens et des analyses de documents ont été menées auprès de 20 aînés au programme Arts, Santé et Aînés (ASA) Projet de Vancouver. Les résultats ont indiqué que le programme a soutenu la capacité des personnes âgées à développer des relations dans la communauté par de nouveaux moyens en les aidant à nouer des liens au-delà du centre pour personnes âgées. Les participants ont également développé un sentiment plus fort d’appartenance à la communauté grâce à la collaboration en tant que groupe, travaillant ensemble sur le projet artistique pour produire une présentation finale à l’ensemble de la communauté. Les résultats suggèrent que l’ACE contribue à l’inclusion sociale des personnes âgées.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



We are grateful for academic support from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for this project.


Atchley, R. (1989). The continuity theory of normal aging. The Gerontologist, 29, 183190.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bedding, S., & Sadlo, G. (2008). Retired people’s experience of participation in art classes. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(9), 371378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berkman, L.F., Glass, T., Brissette, I., & Seeman, T.E. (2000). From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science & Medicine, 51(6), 843857.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Black, K. (2008). Health and aging-in-place: Implications for community practice. Journal of Community Practice, 16(1), 7995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, G.D. (2009). New theories and research findings on the positive influence of music and art on health with ageing. Arts & Health, 1(1), 4862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, G.D., Perlstein, S., Chapline, J., Kelly, J., Firth, K.M., & Simmens, S. (2006). The impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults. The Gerontologist, 46, 726734.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, G.D., Perlstein, S., Chapline, J., Kelly, J., Firth, K.M., & Simmens, S. (2007). The impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults—2-year results. Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts, 1(1), 522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cooley, N.J. (2003). Arts and culture in medicine and health: A survey research paper. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Craig, C. (1994). Community determinants of health for rural elderly. Public Health Nursing, 11(4), 242246.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cutchin, M.P. (2003). The process of mediated aging-in-place: A theoretically and empirically based model. Social Science and Medicine, 57, 10771090.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ell, K. (1984). Social networks, social support, and health status: A review. Social Service Review, 58(1), 133149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Emerson, R.M., Fretz, R.I., & Shaw, L.L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilleard, C., Hyde, M., & Higgs, P. (2007). The impact of age, place, aging in place, and attachment to place on the well-being of the over 50s in England. Research on Aging, 29(6), 590605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in practice (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Iso-Ahola, S.E., & Park, C.J. (1996). Leisure-related social support and self-determination as buffers of stress-illness relationship. Journal of Leisure Research, 28, 169187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Iwasaki, Y. (2007). Leisure and quality of life in an international and multicultural context: What are major pathways linking leisure to quality of life? Social Indicators Research, 82, 233264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jermyn, H. (2004). The art of inclusion. London: The Arts Council of England.Google Scholar
Kahana, E., & Kahana, B. (1996). Conceptual and empirical advances in understanding aging well through proactive adaptation. In Bengtson, V.L. (Ed.), Adulthood and aging: Research on continuities and discontinuities (pp. 1840). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Kahana, E., & Kahana, B. (2003). Contextualizing successful aging: New directions in an age-old search. In Settersten, R.A. (Ed.), Invitation to the Life Course: Understandings of later life (pp. 225255). Amityville, NY: Baywood.Google Scholar
Lally, E. (2009). ‘The power to heal us with a smile and a song’: Senior well-being, music based participatory arts and the value of qualitative evidence. Journal of Arts and Communities, 1(1), 2544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lowe, S. (2000). Creating community: Art for community development. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 29(3), 357386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matarasso, F. (1997). Use or ornament? The social impact of participation in the arts. Stroud, UK: Comedia.Google Scholar
Merli, P. (2002). Evaluating the social impact of participation in arts activities. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 8(1), 107118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mulligan, M., Scanlon, C., & Welch, N. (2008). Renegotiating community life: Arts, agency, inclusion and wellbeing. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 1, 4872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newman, T., Curtis, K., & Stephens, J. (2003). Do community-based arts projects result in social gains? A review of the literature. Community Development Journal, October, 310322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nimrod, G., & Kleiber, D.A. (2007). Reconsidering change and continuity in later life: Toward an innovation theory of successful aging. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 65, 122.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Parke, B., & Stevenson, L. (1999). Creating an elder-friendly hospital. Healthcare Management Forum, 12(3), 4548.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Phinney, A., & Moody, E.M. (2011). Leisure Connections: Benefits and challenges of participating in a social recreation group for people with early dementia. Activities, Adaptation and Aging, 35, 111130.Google Scholar
Pringle, D. (2009). Scared to need nursing care. Nursing Leadership, 22(3), 14.Google ScholarPubMed
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2004). What determines health? Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Rowe, J.W., & Kahn, R.L. (1987). Human aging: Usual and successful. Science, 237(4811), 143149.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rowe, J.W., & Kahn, R.L. (1998). Successful aging: The MacArthur foundation study. New York: Dell Publishing.Google Scholar
Springate, I., Atkinson, M., & Martin, K. (2008). Intergenerational practice: A review of the literature. Berkshire, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research.Google Scholar
Statistics Canada. (2004). Seniors. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Statistics Canada. (2006). A portrait of seniors in Canada. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Stebbins, R.A. (1982). Serious leisure: A conceptual statement. Pacific Sociological Review, 25, 251272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thorne, S. (2000). Data analysis in qualitative research. Evidence-Based Nursing, 3, 6870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thorne, S., Reimer-Kirkham, S., & O’Flynn-Magee, K. (2004). The analytic challenge in interpretive description. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 3(1), 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vaillant, G.E. (2002). Aging well. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company.Google Scholar
Vancouver Coastal Health. (2005). Community health area 3 (Northeast): A health and social profile. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Weintraub, A.P.C., & Killian, T.S. (2007). Intergenerational programming: Older persons’ perceptions of its impact. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 26, 370384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
White, M. (2006). Establishing common ground in community-based arts in health. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 126(3), 128133.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
White, T.R., & Rentschler, R. (2005). Toward a new understanding of the social impact of the arts. Presented at the 8th International Conference on Arts and Cultural Management, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.Google Scholar
World Health Organization (WHO). (2007). Global age-friendly cities guide. The World Health Organization. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from Scholar
Xaverius, P.K., & Mathews, R.M. (2003). Evaluating the impact of intergenerational activities on elders’ engagement and expressiveness levels in two settings. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 1(4), 5369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar