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Connecting Socially Isolated Older Rural Adults with Older Volunteers through Expressive Arts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2016

Ann MacLeod
Trent-Fleming School of Nursing, Trent University
Mark W. Skinner
Department of Geography, Trent University
Fay Wilkinson
Registered Expressive Arts Consultant/Educator, Ontario
Heather Reid
Past-Director, U-Links Centre for Community-Based Research, Ontario
E-mail address:


Employing a participatory arts-based research approach, we examined an innovative program from rural Ontario, Canada, designed to address social isolation among older people. Older socially isolated adults were matched to trained volunteers, where in dyads, the eight pairs created expressive art in their home setting over the course of 10 home visits. With thematic and narrative inquiry, we analysed the experiences and perceptions of the program leader, older participants, and older volunteers via their artistic creations, weekly logs, evaluations, and field notes. The findings reveal a successful intervention that positively influenced the well-being of older adult participants and older volunteers, especially in regards to relationships, personal development, and creating meaning as well as extending the intervention’s impact beyond the program’s duration. We also discuss opportunities for similar programs to inform policy and enable positive community-based health and social service responses to rural social isolation.


Utilisant une approche participative basée sur la recherche dans le domaine des arts, nous avons examiné un programme novateur de l’Ontario rural, Canada, conçu pour répondre à l’isolement social chez les personnes âgées. Les personnes âgées qui étaient socialement isolées ont été jumelées à des bénévoles formés; en dyades, les huit paires ont créées de l’art expressif chez elles au cours des dix visites à domicile. Utilisant une enquête thematique et narrative, nous avons analysé les expériences et les perceptions du programme du chef, des participants plus âgés, et des bénévoles plus âgés à travers leurs créations artistiques, les journaux hebdomadaires, les évaluations et le carnet d’opérations.

Les résultats révèlent une intervention réussie qui influencent positivement le bien-être des participants plus âgés et les bénévoles plus âgés, en particulier en ce qui concerne les relations, le développement personnel, et en la création du sens, ainsi que l’extension de l’impact de l’intervention au-delà de la durée du programme. Nous discutons aussi possibilités pour des programmes similaires pour la politique et permet des services sociaux positifs à l'isolement rural basés dans les communautés.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2016 

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