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Creative and Cultural Activities and Wellbeing in Later Life

What makes later life worth living? That is one of the questions that Age UK has been attempting to answer through our recent research on wellbeing. We used a rich data source (the Understanding Society Survey), combined with state-of-the-art statistical techniques, to construct Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life.

Unsurprisingly, the Index showed that people with good social networks, good health and good financial resources were more likely to have high levels of wellbeing. However, the strongest message from the research was the importance of maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you in later life – whether this is through social, creative or physical activity, work, or belonging to some form of community group. Taken together, these types of participation contribute more than a fifth of wellbeing, as defined in our Index. Even more striking was our finding that creative and cultural participation was the single factor that contributed the most out of all 40 of the factors we found to significantly contribute to wellbeing.

Follow-up qualitative research that we carried out showed that, even for people with very low wellbeing overall, having something creative to do really helps.

This report delves further into our findings around creative and cultural participation – what it is, who does what, and how it differs depending on people’s overall level of wellbeing. We include examples of creative and cultural activities for older people and conclude with recommendations for practitioners and policymakers.