A Scoping Review of Research on the Arts, Aging, and Quality of Life

Gerontologist. 2015 Aug;55(4):719-29. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv027.


Purpose of the study: Artistic engagement has been identified as a promising way to improve older adults' quality of life (QoL) and health. This has resulted in a growing, yet diverse, knowledge base. The purpose of this scoping review was to describe and map the nature and extent of research conducted on the arts, aging, and either QoL or health for well older adults.

Design and methods: We followed scoping review procedures. Research librarians developed a comprehensive search strategy to capture published and gray literature across 16 databases. We systematically screened 9,720 titles/abstracts and extracted data. Findings were collated by tabulating frequencies and textual data organized according to themes.

Results: 94 articles were included, spanning nine disciplines, and most were published after 2000 (72%). Most of the studies were conducted in the United States (52%). Research teams rarely published more than one study about the arts and QoL/health. The studies used qualitative (49%), quantitative (38%), or mixed methods (10%). The most common art form examined was music (40%). Artistic engagement was usually active (70%) and frequently occurred in groups (56%). Health and QoL were conceptualized and operationalized in many different ways.

Implications: There is a need for programs of research (instead of teams conducting only one study), the development and application of conceptual frameworks, and multiple perspectives in order to build knowledge about how the arts contribute to health and QoL for older adults.

Keywords: Creativity; Related therapy; Scoping review; Wellness; arts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Art*
  • Creativity*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Music
  • Quality of Life*