The therapeutic and healing use of the creative arts has a long history and recent studies have explored the benefits of older groups of people engaging in creative arts, reporting improved physical health and social interaction. However, while many studies discuss the outcomes of the creative activity (e.g., increased confidence), the process of engagement itself is often not examined. To develop a robust creative arts intervention, we need to understand more clearly what the creative activity means for participants – both the effects on their lives and well-being, and the process of engagement.

The Ageing Creatively pilot study by Eric Cross, funded by the Medical Research Council, aims to identify how participating in creative arts for older people may lead to outcomes with positive effects on their health and sense of wellbeing (where ‘wellbeing’ is defined by participants); to explain and test our choice of methods through creative art workshops (music, literature and the visual arts); and to design a major follow-on study that builds on lessons learnt in the pilot.

Among these events, ‘Exploring Music’, a 10 week-workshop, conducted a pilot study with a client group whose musical explorations were documented on a CD with accompanying commentary.