Aging and Social Change International Award for Excellence

The Journal of Aging and Social Change offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Aging & Social Change Research Network.

Award Winners for Volume 9

The Role of Participatory Arts in Developing Reciprocal Relationships amongst Older People: A Conceptual Review of the Literature

This conceptual review focuses on the impact of participatory arts in promoting reciprocal relationships for older people receiving care in residential or community settings between older people and caregivers, older people themselves, and older people and the wider community. Findings from forty-four studies demonstrate the role that participatory arts can play in maintaining well-being amongst older people through enabling and facilitating reciprocal relationships. Through enabling older people to have a voice, power, and to contribute within relationships, participatory arts facilitate reciprocity, thereby facilitating well-being. Through creating deeper and more reciprocal social connections between older people, caregivers, and the community, participatory arts can help address the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness amongst older people. However, further research is needed to explore the key mechanisms which facilitate these relationships and how to sustain relational impacts. The compelling findings thus far should prompt arts organisations, funders, and policy makers to utilise participatory arts in reducing social isolation and loneliness amongst older people.


This article makes a significant contribution to the growing arts and health field, by providing the first review of the impact of participatory arts activities exclusively on social outcomes for older people (as opposed to impacts on health, wellbeing, quality of life, and behavioural outcomes). The need for such a review is evident by growing concerns around loneliness and social isolation amongst older people which negatively impacts on wellbeing and quality of life, and the emerging evidence that the arts may help address these concerns. We review 44 studies which outline the impact of participatory arts in promoting reciprocal relationships for older people receiving care in residential or community settings between older people themselves, older people and caregivers, and older people and the wider community. We also explore the mechanisms behind this impact. We conclude that through enabling older people to have a voice, power, and to contribute within relationships, participatory arts can facilitate reciprocity, thereby promoting wellbeing. Through creating deeper and more reciprocal social connections between older people, caregivers, and the community, participatory arts can help address the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness amongst older people. This conceptual review forms part of a larger project, ‘Creative Journeys’, conducted in collaboration with the formerly named Essex County Council Culture and Community Engagement Team and the Older People’s Research Group Essex, which was funded by the Arts Council England Research Grants Programme 2016–2018. We are continuing to publish findings from this substantial project, which demonstrate the impact of arts in promoting social relationships and reducing loneliness amongst older people. The compelling findings from this project should prompt arts organisations, funders, and policy makers to utilise participatory arts in reducing social isolation and loneliness amongst older people.

—Ceri Wilson, Anna Dadswell, Carol Munn-Giddings, and Hilary Bungay

Past Award Winners

Volume 8

Seeing Healthcare through a Social Work Lens: Tackling Disparities and Inequalities for the Elder African American Male

Cristina Joy Torgé, The International Journal of Aging and Social Change, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.45–60


Volume 7

Seeing Healthcare through a Social Work Lens: Tackling Disparities and Inequalities for the Elder African American Male

Patrick Burden, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.73–82


Volume 6

From Aging in Community to Age-friendly Community: Translating Applied Research into Practice

Kathy Black and Kathyrn Hyer, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.59-71


Volume 5

Let’s Talk about Dying: Proposals for Encouraging Discussion of Advance-care Planning

Rosemary Venne, Donna Goodridge, Elizabeth Quinlan, and Paulette Hunter, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.33–46


Volume 4

The Role of Food in Supporting Healthy Aging: A Stakeholder Perspective

Orla Collins and Joe Bogue, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 4, Issue 3-4, pp.1–12


Volume 3

Exploring Older People’s Perspectives of Community Organizing: A Photovoice Study in the Philippines

Crystal Kwan and Christine A. Walsh, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.15–30


Volume 2

The Role and Contribution of Philanthropy to the Lives of Older People in Ireland

Andy Cochrane, Sinéad McGilloway, Mairéad Furlong, and Michael Donnelly, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, 13–23