The purpose of this paper is to highlight some of the benefits and issues relating to arts participation in later life.
The paper draws on literature relating to older people's arts participation, and also includes discussion of the author's doctoral research into arts and ageing. The research was a qualitative study, influenced by narrative approaches and life-course perspectives. It involved interviews with 24 participants who have connections with a case-study town in the English Midlands.
The paper focuses on the findings from six participants belonging to a male voice choir. The themes that are discussed include the importance of continuity; issues of identity; mutual support; impact of ill health and the sustainability of group activities.
This is a small-scale study, based in one case study town. Care should therefore be taken in generalising to different populations and areas. Potential for future research includes: other geographical locations, including larger urban areas. Specific focus on choir participation, or other art form. Involving people from a wider range of ethnic backgrounds.
This study adds to a growing body of evidence about the value of arts and culture to society.
This study is original in adopting life-course perspectives to understand later life arts participation. It also offers original insights into the nature of arts-generated social capital and how this may be viewed within a wider context of resourceful ageing.
The PhD research was funded by a RAE Investment Studentship from Keele University. The author would like to thank all the people who generously allowed the author to interview them, and also the author's PhD supervisors, Professor Thomas Scharf and Professor Miriam Bernard.
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