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  • Stories of Creative Ageing

    Portraying Ageing: Cultural Assumptions and Practical ImplicationsBritish Library Conference Centre28th April 2014

    Dr Jackie Reynolds

  • Introduction

    Senior Researcher (FACT)

    Inter-disciplinary research development, including cross-faculty group of Researchers in Ageing

    Social Gerontologist arts and ageing

    Involvement in local initiatives e.g. Age Friendly City Steering Group; Creative Age Festival (partners at Keele/New Vic)

    Interest in creative research methods, cultural value, stories/narratives

  • Overview

    And the Doctor Said..Stories of healthcare in North Staffordshire

    Creative Ageing: Exploring Social Capital and Arts Engagement in Later Life:Life Stories of Male Choristers

  • Doctoral Research

    Research aim: To explore the meanings that older people attach to their participation in group arts activities throughout their lives

    Qualitative study, life course approach, influenced by narrative methodologies

    In-depth interviews with 24 participants aged 60-87. One third male, two thirds female

    Included dance, drama, craft groups, art groups, choirs

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: The key roles played by peoples childhood experiences at home, school and church, in shaping later-life arts engagement

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: Later life arts participation can contribute to positive ageing identities

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: A wide range of practical and emotional support can be generated by group arts activities

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: The distinctive form of community in choirs the collective act of singing becomes a metaphor for community itself (communitas)

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: People identified health benefits linked to arts engagement, but it could also be a barrier to participation

  • Life Stories of Male Choristers

    Research finding: Concerns about the overall sustainability of arts groups and the survival of valued traditions

  • And the Doctor Said..

    AHRC Connected Communities projectStaffordshire, Keele and Northumbria UniversitiesExploring peoples experiences of healthcare in North Staffordshire (historically as well as recently)Creative writing workshops led by writers, actors, storytellersRange of ages, including many older participants.

  • And the Doctor Said. And with

  • Sharing the Storiesw

    Wealth of creative writing Book in publicationAudio-documentaryProject FilmsSee www.andthedoctorsaid.orgTouring exhibition

  • Exhibition Launch at Burslem School of Art, December 2013wi

  • Value of storytelling in research with older people: connecting people; conveying powerful messages

    Exciting potential of creative research methods to enable stories to be shared in more participatory and engaging ways

    Dynamics of mutual support and reciprocity in lives of older people challenge discourses of dependency

    Potential of arts participation in later life positive ageing identities; social capital

    Old age cannot be viewed in isolation from the rest of the life course. Need to focus on resourceful ageing throughout life

  • ReferencesCooper, L. Thomas, H. (2002) Growing old gracefully: social dance in the third age. Ageing & Society Vol. 22 pp.689-708

    Paulson, S. (2010) How Different Dance Forms Construct a Sense of Community Amongst Older People. London, City University. Available from [Accessed 22 April 2014]


    With grateful thanks to:Prof. Miriam Bernard (Keele University) and Prof. Thomas Scharf (NUI Galway) who supervised my doctoral researchMy colleagues on the And the Doctor Said project: Mark Webster (Staffordshire University), Dr Alannah Tomkins (Keele University) and Dr Geoff Walton (Northumbria University) Creative practitioners for And the Doctor Said Deborah McAndrew, Maria Whatton, Dave Reeves and Chrissie HallResearch participants who shared their stories

  • Thank youAny questions?wiMy contact details:

    Dr Jackie Reynolds

    [email protected]

    Tel. 01782 295789

    Twitter @jackie_staffs

    ***Going to share with you some of the storytelling projects that Ive been working on in recent times*2 contrasting projectsRe-visit doctoral research peoples stories of their group arts participation throughout their live. More traditional approach to collecting research narrativesThen a more recent project using creative and participatory approaches*Asked people to tell me the story of their arts engagement throughout their lives6 men were in Male Voice ChoirAs you might expect, people often started at the beginning!This was a common finding amongst ALL participants.Teachers might be shocked to know how their words often still impact on people 50 years laterInfluence of church perhaps a distinctive feature for people of this generation often in church choirs or did drama or crafts at Sunday schoolAlso distinctive for these participants that being in the armed forces was also highly influential. Most of them had performed in the RAF or the Army, and in some cases would still meet with ex-colleagues to share stories of those days. Most peoples stories followed a logical, coherent narrative. Few had taken up something completely new in later life tended to be a continuation of earlier activities. Even when something was new it tended to be explained as following in someone elses footsteps *This was true not just in terms of peoples self-identity but also their social identity, especially when involved in performance activitiesMale voice choir has a certain status attached to it due to semi-professional naturePride in wearing the uniform, pride in performing as well as the enjoyment of actually being a performer the buzzI dont mind performing, you know- I love it. Theres a certain element of buzz for me in it you know its a buzz when Ive done it. It takes me a little while to come down after the concert New members are encouraged but performances have to conform to a high standard and members have to treat it as serious leisure *But as well as having the serious, semi-professional aspects of participation, there were many stories about the high levels of practical and emotional support and the sense of family Just a couple of the numerous examples (read slide)Stan was struggling to keep going this was why he continuedChallenged perceptions of dependency in later life strong culture of mutual support, inter-dependence. *So is there a distinctive form of community that exists in choirs?In considering this, I was very struck by this quote from Stan which reminded me of the way that people talked about the communities of days gone by when everybody knew everybody else in the street (Read quote)Previous research on dancing groups was very influential here. Like in dance groups, the very act of singing and especially in the male voice choir where people are grouped into their cordons becomes a metaphor for community itself.The concept of communitas has also been used in this respect, to describe an intense community spirit that is characterized by social equality, solidarity and togetherness*But alongside the positive stories of engagement in a close and supportive community, there also existed threats to involvement in that community and one of these was the impact of peoples health. Generally speaking in the research, there were numerous examples of ways in which peoples arts participation was a positive strategy for dealing with their health issues. Sometimes, even when people were in extremely poor health and with very limited mobility, they were able to continue to engage in group arts activities. However, in some cases their health became a barrier.This was the case for Phillip, who had very recently stopped attending the choir as he could no longer stand for the performances.He was struggling with a sense of loss even returning the uniform was a difficult and painful thing to do. His story reveals the importance of the choir in his life and clearly illustrates why he was struggling so much with having to give up. This part of his story begins when he retires from a job he loved as a flight attendant manager and moved to a new area*As well as Phillips individual story of having to cease his involvement in the choir, there were more general concerns about the sustainability of a wide range of the activities that people took part in. This was demonstrated nowhere more strongly than in relation to the male voice choir. Read quoteCommon in most groupsVarious reasons:Financial issuesAge and health status of existing membersAbility to attract group leadersLack of on-going interest from younger cohorts.Changing social norms people used to go on to a male voice choir from a church choir. Also strong links to local industries e.g. coal mining. Lack of time and motivation?BUT people may join as they get older will you end up linking the same activities as your parents do now or will there be totally different kinds of opportunities in X number of years time when you are older?What will OUR stories of creative ageing be?*Wanted to include this project as a contrast to the more traditional approach to story gathering in my PhD research. Then, I went in as the researcher, gathered peoples stories, and then analysed and re-framed their stories according to the academic lenses that I was using. This project, by contrast, is very much about people telling their OWN stories in creative ways. **This was one of four sets of workshopsInvolved teenaged mums and older womenLed by actor and playwright Deborah McAndrewThe women exchanged stories of health and healthcare the conversation was recorded, transcribed and then developed into a 3-act audio documentaryThe group performed the documentary, it was recorded and went on the project websiteSome of the most interesting stories were around motherhood stories of birth but many other stories tooOther workshops resulted in other forms of creative writing e.g. poems, short stories*Key thing learnt the value of taking the stories back to the communities that they came fromThe pride that people have in seeing their stories featured in a high quality exhibitionThe importance of creating spaces where people tell their own stories*Using creative research methods provides new opportunities for older people to engage in creative arts based activitiesReally valuable to work in partnership with artists and creative practitionersFocusing on how older people experience social capital highlights the extent to which they invest their social capital in supporting othersResourceful ageing recognises that peoples later life experiences will be affected by their life course experiences. In their arts engagement they draw on a range of resources that have been accumulated throughout their lives and they also invest those resources e.g. knowledge, skills to support others. *