'Will I wear purple?'-a school arts-based research project in the UK to disseminate findings from a qualitative evidence synthesis about living to an extreme age.
Toye F., Cox A., Jenkins C., Barker K.
BACKGROUND: a change in attitude towards ageing is needed. Arts-based research (ABR) refers to the use of any creative art in research. ABR can provide an environment to reflect on challenging social issues and has the potential to make lasting impressions. OBJECTIVE: we aimed to explore the use of ABR to disseminate findings from a qualitative evidence synthesis exploring what it means to live well beyond the age of 80. DESIGN: ABR using art as a stimulus for recorded discussions and written annotations. SETTING: a mixed catchment state secondary school in the UK. SUBJECTS: fifty-four secondary school pupils aged 14-15. The majority identified as female (ratio 5:1). METHODS: school pupils created artwork to represent themes about ageing drawn from a qualitative evidence synthesis. The artwork was a stimulus for recorded discussions. We used thematic analysis to develop themes about children's response to ageing. RESULTS: we developed six themes. Pupils found comfort in recognising that old age can be lived well; they began to see themselves in the older person; they explored the ambiguous nature of memory; they highlighted the dangers of disconnection; they affirmed a need to restore connection with elders and they recognised the need to cherish time and live meaningfully. CONCLUSIONS: this project encouraged pupils to think about what it means to grow old. ABR has the potential to contribute to a more positive relationship with older people and towards ageing. Research stakeholders should not undervalue the potential power of shifts in perspective for powering social change.