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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of community for seniors involved in community-engaged arts Moody, Elaine Marie


Social isolation is a concern for the health of older adults in Canada. Community-engaged arts (CEA) programs are thought to support social inclusion but how such programs contribute to building community connections for older adults at risk of social isolation is poorly understood. This study, therefore, is aimed to explore the experience of community for this population in the context of a CEA program as well as the role the program plays in that experience. A qualitative study using ethnographic methods was conducted to answer two research questions: (1) What does community mean to seniors in the Arts, Health and Seniors program? (2) What is the role of the Arts, Health and Seniors program in the participants’ experience of community? Data were collected over a six week period using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The sample was a group of 20 urban-dwelling seniors at risk for social isolation who participated in a CEA program once a week. Regular group art sessions were observed by the researcher and extensive field notes were recorded. Interviews were conducted with five senior participants and four other key informants (including two artists, a senior worker, and an administrators), and documents related to the community were reviewed. Data were analyzed throughout the data collection process and interpretations were noted. Through immersion in the data and a movement between the data and interpretations, themes were developed. Connections between themes were explored and taken back to the data. Findings were presented as a detailed description of the participants’ experience of community. Community for the participants focused around the Seniors Centre where the program was held. The participants expressed that the meaningful relationships at the centre made it ‘another home’ and was a place they could find resources to adapt to challenges. The CEA program provided a unique experience of community through working together as a group and making new social connections. For health professionals working with older people at risk for social isolation, this research will add to the understanding of how community is experienced by older adults and how community is supported by CEA programs.

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