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In the run up to the BSG 2019 conference, where the BSG Creative Ageing SIG will run their inaugural symposium, we are publishing interviews with the steering committee to share more surrounding our vision and goals for the group. This first interview was conducted by Robyn Dowlen (vice-chair) who interviewed Emily Bradfield (chair).

Emily Bradfield – Chair of BSG Creative Ageing SIG

Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about the new BSG Creative Ageing Special Interest Group. Would you like to start by telling us a little bit more about you?

I’m just in the last few months of my PhD at the University of Derby, where I’ve been researching creative ageing through looking at participatory arts engagement with people in later life. I’m specifically focusing on healthy older people, so people who are still living independently in their own houses, rather than care homes. I’ve been comparing engagement in different art forms by looking at visual arts, creative writing, theatre and dance to see whether there’s any difference, in terms of wellbeing and quality of life outcomes.

To do that, I’ve conducted a systematic review of qualitative and quantitative literature and then I’ve drawn out themes, which I then took to three focus groups. During the focus groups I discussed the findings with groups of older people to see whether the review themes resonated with their own personal experiences of engagement with the arts in later life.

That sounds really interesting. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Could you let us know a little more about what your motivations were for founding the BSG Creative Ageing Special Interest Group?

I think my PhD research led me to wanting to set up the special interest group in Creative Ageing. I was able to observe how people engage with creativity and creative activity across the life course. In older age, there are lots of transitions that you can experience, whether this is retirement or the loss of a partner, changing circumstances, children moving home, whatever it might be – there’s quite a few large changes that happen as we get older.

The term ‘creative ageing’ is a lot broader than ‘arts and health’, in that it covers not just the arts, but any activity that people are able to express themselves creatively…which is something that came up in the focus groups for my PhD research. Lots of people said ‘oh what about cooking? I get really creative in the kitchen’ or gardening. Creative ageing, therefore, extends into different worlds and other disciplines, with social gerontology being one obvious one.

I wanted to see if notions of arts and health could be extended to include these more everyday notions of creativity, whilst still positioning ourselves alongside the broader ‘arts and health’ agenda.

It’s really interesting to hear you talk about a really wide range of creative activity! What would you say your hopes and aspirations are for the special interest group?

One of the things that I’m really keen on, and have been throughout my career, is focusing very much on community engagement. And so throughout my PhD, one of my aims has been to bridge the gap between research and practice. As a PhD student you write this lengthy thesis and I want to make sure it doesn’t just go to my examiner and then nobody ever reads it. I want the findings to be relevant and accessible to a much wider audience.

So, bringing together a community of interest of those who are interested in creative ageing, whether that be in research, practice, artists, members of the general public…just bringing those people together to have conversations and potentially work together in developing bids and influencing policy through being a proactive network.

We are planning to run some interactive sessions, but also some webinars, provide support and mentoring for people at the early stages of their careers, whether that be in academia or in practice.  Our steering committee is mainly made up of early career researchers and I think that is really important that we are able to share knowledge, build and learn from each other.

Thank you Emily, that sounds really interesting. Where can we follow any updates about the BSG Creative Ageing SIG or about your PhD research?

We launched the Twitter handle for the SIG recently, which is @BSGCreativeSIG, and so, if you are on Twitter, you can follow us there for any updates. I’m also very active on twitter so you can follow me @erbradfield, and I post regularly on my website. We will also be launching a webpage for the SIG in the near future, so watch this space!