Doing and feeling together in older age: self-worth and belonging through social creative activities
The potential for art activities to help in alleviating loneliness is explored through a focus on older women's regular attendance at creative social activities. We apply the concept of perceived emotional synchrony to understand how weekly craft group sessions enable feelings of belonging and self-worth to develop in older women. Using a multi-site six-month study of 62 women aged 70+ attending social creative activities our multi-stage research design captures the experiences of these women through observation and narrative group discussions held weekly. Our findings show that feelings of belonging and self-worth developed over a relatively short time. In particular, social integration and identity fusion were found to occur as a result of the emotional synchrony engendered via a regular shared activity, out of the home, and requiring some challenge and creativity. We propose a virtuous cycle model to explain the value in such activities and discuss the wider implications for wellbeing in older age. Perceived emotional synchrony has not been used before to explore the mechanisms through which social creative activities form lasting benefits for older women. Our research highlights the importance of feeling at one with others in improving feelings of belonging and self-worth and indicates how a variety of social creative experiences could be designed to enable this.