Evidence Summary

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Arts can improve the quality of life of older adults

Fraser K, O’Rourke H, Wiens H, et al.  A scoping review of research on the arts, aging, and quality of life  The Gerontologist. 2015; 55(4): 719-729.

Review question

      How can the arts improve the quality of life for older adults?


      As the aging population continues to grow, there is an increased focus on the quality of life of older adults.

      There is a growing interest in the importance of the arts on the wellbeing of individuals during the aging process.

      The purpose of this systematic review was to describe the nature of studies concerned with the arts and older adults, and explore the effects of arts on their overall quality of life and well-being.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted to identify studies published between 1972-2012. Studies that focused on adults over the age of 65, the arts and quality of life were included in the systematic review.

      A total of 419 articles were identified in searches, and 90 studies were included in the review after assessing their eligibility.

      This review was funded by Nursing Research Chair in Aging and Quality of Life at the University of Alberta (Canada).

What the researchers found

      The studies included in the review discussed the impact of the following art forms: music, painting or drawing, theatre or drama, writing and photography or film. The studies also addressed the impact of these art forms on both the physical and mental well-being of older adults.

      The review identified that there is an increased interest and presence of the arts in seniors centres and continuing-care settings in order to engage older adults and promote well-being.

      Despite the recognition of the benefit of the arts during the aging process, many art forms remain on the periphery of what society seems to value in the care of older adults and every day practice.

      Music was the most common art form examined in the individual studies.

      Artistic engagement was usually active (as opposed to passive engagement like looking at artwork) and frequently occurred in groups settings (as opposed to individually).

      Health and quality of life were defined in many different ways in the examined studies.


      The studies included in this review highlighted the positive correlation between the arts and quality of life for older adults despite the limited focus on the arts in many modern cultures.

      For future research, the authors suggest the need for sustained programs of research as well as research from multiple perspectives to support conceptual and theoretical development on the topic of the arts and aging.


Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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