Aim: To describe the aesthetic and cultural pursuits of older patients in hospital.
Background: Although there is much discussion of the importance of arts - used in this paper to refer to all art forms, as currently listed by the Arts Council of Ireland www.artscouncil.ie - in health, little is known about the salience of aesthetic and cultural pursuits of hospital patients.
Design: A qualitative, hermeneutic phenomenological study examined artistic and cultural interests and experiences of older hospital patients and their perceptions of aesthetics of hospital.
Methods: A phenomenological study was carried out in 2011, using purposeful sampling with 20 inpatients aged over 65. Patients were selected from the geriatric medicine day hospital of a university teaching hospital, 10 had experience of the hospital arts programme.
Results: Seven themes identified: loss and the impact of illness on leisure activities; patients' interests and passions; a lack of expectation of arts in hospital; the positive impact of arts in hospital for those who had experienced them; varying preference between receptive and participative arts activity according to phase of illness; aesthetic aspects of the hospital experience; recommendations for changes to improve arts in hospital.
Conclusions: Aesthetic and cultural interests are important in the lives of older patients admitted to hospital. Illness can create barriers to artistic engagement. Participation in arts activities may be more important during recovery and rehabilitation, with receptive arts being more popular during the acute phase of illness in hospital. Further research recommended on the role of the aesthetic environment for patients' health and well-being as well as receptive arts in hospital.
Keywords: aesthetics; culture; gerontology; nursing; patients' perspective; phenomenology; qualitative methodology.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.