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In the run up to the BSG 2019 conference, where the Creative Ageing SIG will run our inaugural symposium, we are publishing interviews with the steering committee to share more surrounding our vision and goals for the group.


Karen is the Secretary of the Creative Ageing SIG. I interviewed her recently to find out about her research and interests in getting involved with the SIG.

Karen, I wondered if we could start with you telling us a little bit more about you and what you’re researching at the moment.

I’m a researcher. But, before starting a PhD at the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester , I worked for an arts & health consultancy, called Willis Newson. So, I came to research not as a practitioner, but with arts practice in mind. I also happen to have a doctorate already, in literature. So, I’m kind of arts through and through, but with some strategic thinking in between.

For Willis Newton I managed the evaluation they did for clients. I was also involved in a research project called Creative and Credible that aimed to develop evaluation resources and skills for arts organisations. The opportunity to do a PhD, looking at the methodological challenges of evaluating arts activities for people with dementia, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, came up at a moment where I was thinking: ‘where shall I take my interest in this kind of work further?’

I am just about to finish this doctoral research, within the TAnDem Doctoral Training Centre. I’ve tried to bring to it a kind of all-round view, looking at it from practice, as well as from the research perspective.

I’m very interested in dementia. But something I’ve come to understand is that to really get a grip on what dementia means and how to tackle its challenges, you have to think about life more generally and about access and inequalities of access to all sorts of things. I will hopefully retain an interest in dementia in future, but I’m also broadening out to think about ageing more generally.

I’m a researcher on various projects at the moment. One is a systematic review looking at conceptualisation of loneliness in research across the adult life-course with Brunel University London and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. That’s really interesting! It’s very hard, and very interesting. I’ve also been developing a funding bid involving music in hospitals for people with dementia, for the University of Winchester. Fingers crossed for that one.

What were your motivations for joining the Creative Ageing SIG?

The BSG is a really fascinating organisation. I think this idea of gerontology – that you have a field of people who come at the issue from so many different angles – I just think that’s really valuable. Having been to a couple of the conferences, I found the membership really open and engaging. There is a lot of interest in creative work and the arts.

I think we have the opportunity to do something coherent and to bring people together to drive future work. That’s the motivation really. I think it’s just a great place for it, because of that multi-disciplinarity, which is something I think we need if we’re going to understand how creativity can be beneficial as we age and to research it effectively.

What knowledge, experience & skills are you going to bring to the SIG?

I am particularly interested in methodologies for research and in how we introduce a rigour to research and evaluation, and to arts practice as well. But I want to make sure that in doing that, we retain the qualities of the arts and creativity that add so much to people’s lives and can also be valuable to our research.

Looking ahead over the next year, what do you look forward to in the SIGs activities?

I want to learn more about the other members, make connections. I want to do stuff that gets people who work in all sorts of different fields working with us. I’m fascinated by projects which might involve technology, or design, or sport, or more biomedical aspects of gerontology. I’m always going to be looking for opportunities to do that, rather than be in a little echo chamber of people who get it already!

Where can people follow updates on your research?

Interview conducted by Emily Bradfield (Creative Ageing SIG founder & chair) @erbradfield

For more information on the SIG, please visit Creative Ageing SIG or click to access our membership form.

Follow us on twitter @BSGcreativeSIG