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Well Into Older Age - Age & Opportunity and the Evidence

Key Message

  • Promoting increased physical activity among older people leads to physical and psychological health benefits, and this can lead to substantial savings in health and long-term care costs;
  • Engaging in creative arts programmes, both in the community and in care settings, can lead to gains in older people’s physical and mental health and may have benefits in terms of social cohesion;
  • Psycho-social programmes may also lead to psychological and physical benefits to older participants.

Source

Leine, Dr. Aine Ni, and O'Shea, Eamon. (2010). Well Into Older Age - Age & Opportunity and the Evidence: What Research Says About the Value of Promoting Participation of Older People. Galway, Ireland: Irish Centre for Social Gerontology.

Purpose

This report includes a review of  the international evidence on effectiveness in relation to the areas covered by Age & Opportunity's programmes.

Promoting increased physical activity among older people leads to physical and psychological health benefits, and this can lead to substantial savings in health and long-term care costs;
Engaging in creative arts programmes, both in the community and in care settings, can lead to gains in older people’s physical and mental health and may have benefits in terms of social cohesion;
Psycho-social programmes may also lead to psychological and physical benefits to older participants.

Evidence

Some of the most rigorous evidence-based research on the impact of participating in arts programmes comes from controlled studies carried out in the US by Cohen and colleagues. Their community-based study of the impact of professionally conducted cultural programmes on older adults found benefits in relation to the following:

  • physical health (fewer doctor visits, less medication use and fewer falls)
  • increased self-esteem
  • reduced loneliness
  • increased activity (p18)

Research in the UK also suggests that community arts programmes which promote active social contact, which encourage creativity and use mentoring are likely to positively affect health and well-being. Impacts included:

  • reduced depression
  • increased social support
  • increased alertness
  • increased social activity
  • enhanced self-worth
  • increased optimism about life (p19)

Engagement in community arts programmes can promote social cohesion and can lead to greater community empowerment and self-determination. Local image and identity can also be enhanced (Matarasso, 1997).
These programs can bring different groups together and encouraging more cross-cultural community understanding (Newman et al, 2003). Intergenerational programmes may break down barriers between old and young. Research also suggests that participation in the arts encourages social inclusion and breaks down barriers (Lowe, 2000; White and Robson, 2003). (p 19)

Active engagement with the arts has positive effects on patients with mental health difficulties: patients were calmer, more attentive and collaborative; they were better able to express themselves after participating in the creation of work under the guidance of art specialists (Malley, Datillo and Gast, 2002). Drama therapy was found to help patients who had difficulties with communication, cognition and social skills (Snow, Damico and Tanguay, 2003), and to enhance self-expression in people with dementia (Knocker, 2002). There was a reduced need for medication and physical restraint. Those who engaged in music and singing were better able to recall events from their lives and
to express themselves, while dance enabled them to increase their range of movement (Staricoff, 2004).

A recent review has identified specific psychological benefits resulting from social support / psycho-educational groups (such as Ageing with Confidence) (Kropf and Cummings, 2008). The authors found that depression was decreased and that age-specific groups enhanced treatment completion in cases of substance abuse (Kropf and Cummings, 2008, p. 352). Such groups also enhanced social adjustments for bereaved spouses and family caregivers; they:

  • reduced depression
  • helped with coping
  • reduced loneliness
  • reduced isolation (p 20)

Participatory festivals can:

  • be inclusive and accessible
  • foster solidarity, identification and self-esteem among a given group
  • encourage advocacy
  • encourage skills development
  • encourage state bodies, voluntary groups and individuals to work together, building social capital(Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2004) (p 19)

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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