Playing Together: Using Art-Based Shared Creative Play to Promote Creative Engagement for Elders

Anne D. Danberg, Notre Dame de Namur University


This research project was designed to study creative engagement for elders through the use of art-based shared creative play. Creative engagement is enlivening and plays an important role in psychological health, and art therapy has proven efficacy in mitigating the difficulties of aging. Yet little is written about how to creatively engage this population. This study investigated the phenomena of creative engagement, the processes by which it occurs and how it is promoted through the use art-based shared creative play.

Research was conducted individually, using a single session of an interactive art- therapy exercise—shared drawing—with 12 older adults ranging in age from 76-94. The research took place over a five-week period in the San Francisco bay area. Participants were recruited through senior service agencies and community outreach.

A grounded theory qualitative method was used to analyze the data and formulate a theory of creative engagement for elders. The findings of this research study include the development of theory that describes participant’s creative process and perception of The research findings suggest that creative engagement can be creative engagement promoted through shared creative play. The experience of creative engagement can be pleasurable and collaborative, can provide elders with an opportunity to express their authentic feelings, foster a sense of discovery and evoke their curiosity.