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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 interview is with Dr Robyn Dowlen, the vice chair of the Creative Ageing SIG. Robyn spoke to Dr Kat Algar-Skaife, another steering group member, to tell us more about herself and her motivations for joining the Creative Ageing SIG.

Dr Robyn Dowlen, Vice chair of BSG Creative Ageing SIG

Hi Robyn, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your research interests?

I am currently a Research Associate working within the Dementia and Ageing Research Team in the Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester. I have recently finished my PhD which aimed to develop an understanding of the ‘in the moment’ benefits of music for people living with dementia. This was an ESRC funded CASE studentship which meant I worked with an orchestra in Manchester called Manchester Camerata. It was a really great opportunity to work with people from industry in formulating a new ‘in the moment’ framework which I’m hoping to develop further later down the line.

Central within my PhD was the creativity of people living with dementia, something which is not very often acknowledged within the wider music and dementia literature. This is because of the strong biomedical discourses within this area, with music being seen primarily as a means of ‘symptom’ reduction rather than a platform for creativity and self-expression without the need for words. So that is just a very brief overview of me and my research interests.

What were your motivations for being part of the Creative Ageing SIG?

I was really interested when Emily first sent around an email about the Creative Ageing SIG. As I’ve said, creativity was really central within my thesis and it is taking that one step away from just seeing music as an intervention and thinking about how actually creativity can enable someone with dementia to feel a sense of flourishing and a life well lived. There are not many groups that focus on creativity beyond the idea of intervention. So I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved with a group focussing on creativity within in the wider context of ageing.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the Special Interest Group?

I think what I’m really excited about the SIG is the focus on the support and mentorship of early career researchers. That’s something we are writing quite strongly into our strategic statements as a platform to enable people to share research, develop research interests and also opportunities for collaboration.

The other thing I found really quite interesting and exciting was working in the intersections of practice, policy, and research. Because I’ve had that experience of working with an orchestra, I know how valuable that was in framing how I approached the research. My supervision was with both academic and industry supervisors and also in the dissemination of findings. I feel that some of my colleagues in Manchester Camerata are very creative in the way that they approach dissemination so I am very excited to be working with them in the future to be able to share the findings of the research. So I think it is that combination of approaches from those different perspectives that will be really interesting to explore and develop.

Thank you Robyn, where can people follow updates on your research?

You can follow me on Twitter: @RobynDowlen. I tend to post a few updates on ResearchGate every once in a while too: www.researchgate.net/profile/Robyn_Dowlen. You can follow the amazing work of Manchester Camerata through their twitter too: @MancCamerata. There is also the Creative Ageing SIG Twitter account as well: @BSGCreativeSIG. Watch this space as I am writing up papers from my PhD over the next year or so, and when they are published I will be promoting them on Social Media.