Good practices

Art and Ageing

Art and Ageing

Art & Ageing is a new Art engagement programme for older people, developed by the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in- partnership with The Creative Ireland Programme. In response to the unique challenges and circumstances experienced by older people during the pandemic, IMMA sought to pilot an interactive and accessible experience that would support older adults to have access to the enriching cultural and art activities from either their home or from a residential setting. Between January to March 2021, 400+ individuals participated in a range of free, inclusive art-based activities, including interactive talks and conversations with IMMA staff.

Year(s): January 2020 to March 2021

Target group(s): Older people particularly those isolated as a result of the pandemic

Website or other online channels:


A series of discussions, interactive workshops, videos were used to deliver the objectives.

Type of product

Online resource Video clips / Films

Brief description of the outcomes

The methodology for this research involved four key stages, which included workshops and phone interviews to develop a Theory of Change for the Art & Ageing programme, development of an outcome measurement tool kit, data collection and analysis of findings, and development of the report and recommendations. 


A series of workshops were held with IMMA and its Visitor Engagement team as a starting point for developing the Theory of Change for the Art & Ageing programme. A Theory of Change is an illustrated diagram explaining the relationship between the programme activities and the outcomes experienced by its stakeholders. The purpose of the workshops was to identify the key stakeholder groups, activities and outcomes generated by the programme. 


Art & Ageing Activities 


In January 2020, IMMA launched the Art & Ageing programme with included a series of online activities for older adults. The programme included: 


Talking Art with IMMA

Online, interactive sessions encouraging participants to engage in conversation and to share their thoughts and opinions about IMMA artwork. Before the session, participants are provided with a printable ‘Talking Art with IMMA’ resource pack, each focussing on selected work from the IMMA Collection and accompanied by a range of conversational prompts that offer a guided way of exploring artwork. The sessions were attended by individuals alone, or individuals along with family and/or friends, or used by Activity Coordinators in nursing homes or other residential settings with their residents. The following quote highlights a participant’s perspective on the value of this offering. 


“The opportunity to learn in such a pleasant, non-threatening, supportive environment. The presenters were, to a person, pleasant and helpful and seemed to know when to step in with assistance or prompts. The chance to get to know, and to enjoy the company, of other participants.”

(Respondent 19)


Slow Looking Art Videos

A series of accessibly produced (e.g., captioned, audio described) videos where participants are invited to watch a guided exploration of selected artwork for the IMMA Collection. The Slow Looking Art Videos were available to Activity Coordinators in nursing homes and other residential settings, as well as available to the wider public through IMMA’s website. 


Armchair Azure

An online experience delivered by IMMA’s Visitor Engagement Team and designed for people with dementia and their family or friends. During Armchair Azure, participants are guided through a selection of artwork from the IMMA Collection by a facilitator with special training in delivering dementia-inclusive art programming. In each session, participants engage in meaningful conversation and dialogue about each piece of artwork. 


Bookable Zoom Sessions with IMMA 


Older people from across Ireland joined IMMA for a virtual guided tour of the IMMA Collection. In this guided tour of IMMA, the Visitor Engagement Team offered participants a close look at selected artwork from the IMMA Collection and invited participants to express their thoughts and opinions with the wider group. Each session was intended to simulate the experience of a walking tour through IMMA, but from the comfort of their home.

Impact on target groups / Transferability potential

Increased opportunity to engage/participate in the Art

An important short-term outcome of the Art & Ageing programme was to offer participants with meaningful opportunities to engage with the Art, through online group conversations and activities facilitated by IMMA. The value of this outcome for participants is best illustrated in their own words: 


“There was one particular art piece, it was very contemporary. I couldn’t figure it out, I was looking at the art trying to understand what it was saying. As we were having a discussion, I learned that there isn’t an single answer for this picture, it’s not necessarily about being right or wrong – and that simply meant that I could participate.” 

(Respondent 6) 


“Lockdown has been depressing when the light is low and winter evening draw in. (Art & Ageing) helps bring our minds to a difference place, it feeds our minds and our spirits. By combing through the painting and discussing what messages the artwork is trying to convey; it is revealing and always surprising.” 

How this outcome was measured? 


At the end of the Art & Ageing programme, participants were asked to complete an online outcome measurement tool to gather data about whether they had experience any positive changes from their participation. An indicator was used to measure whether participants felt they had greater opportunity to share their views and opinions of Art with other participants. To measure this change, a four-point Likert-scale with a range from 0 (no change) to 4 (a lot of change) was used to gather outcome data from participants after they had attended Art & Ageing. 


Key finding 


Out of 66 responses, 74% (n=49) experienced increased opportunity to engage or participate in the Art. Of the remaining, 15% experienced a small change (n=10) and 5% experienced no change for this outcome (n=3), which was understood as participants already having opportunities to participate in the Art. Four individuals did not provide an answer. 


Increased social contact

Another short-term outcome for participants was increased social contact as a result of participating in Art & Ageing activities. This outcome was considered important because many participants were cocooning due to the global pandemic or reported feeling socially distant from friends and/ or family, but had experienced greater opportunity to connect with other people with mutual interests by participating in in Art & Ageing: 

“During the workshop, it felt that we have all got to know each other better and interact with each other.” 

(Respondent 47) 


How this outcome was measured? 


An indicator was used to measure if participants experienced more social contact or interaction with people as a result of attending Art & Ageing. Similar to the previous outcome, this outcome was measured using a four-point Likert-scale. 

Key finding

61% of respondents (n=40) reported increased levels of social contact as a result of attending Art & Ageing. Of the remaining, 21% of respondents (n=14) reported a small change and 12% (n=8) reported no change in their social contact. Four individuals did respond to this question. 


Increased interest in Modern Art

In phone interviews with stakeholders in order to develop the theory of change, some interviewees stated a benefit of the Art & Ageing was their increased interest in Modern Art, which is best described by the following quotes: 


“It’s such a different way of looking at art during these strange times.
It encouraged me to take a look at Modern Art in a more positive way and become more culturally aware of its significance. ’ 

(Respondent 17) 


“Participating in this session has inspired more interest in Modern Art and it’s good to learn about artists and their works.” 

(Respondent 21) 

How this outcome was measured? 

To determine if participants were more interested in Modern Art as a result of participating in the Art & Ageing programme. Similar again to the previous outcomes, this outcome was measured using a four-point Likert-scale. 

Key finding

64% of respondents (n=42) reported increased interest for Modern Art. Of the remaining, 17% of respondents (n=11) reported a small change and 9% (n=6) reported no change in their interest of Modern Art. Seven individuals did give an answer. 


Increased connection with IMMA

Another outcome reported by participants was greater engagement or connection with IMMA as a result of their participation in the Art & Ageing. This is best described using the following quotes: 


“As an IMMA member, it helped me to keep connected with other members who I’d see at previous events and talks.” 

(Respondent 5) 


“I miss being able to visit galleries in person. While online sessions cannot fully substitute for this, it is much more interesting than visiting a website or being on my own.” 

(Respondent 14) 

How this outcome was measured? 

To understand if participants felt more engaged or connected with IMMA, the indicator asked respondents to report if they had participated in more activities, workshops or talks delivered by IMMA during the global pandemic. 

Key finding 

45% of respondents (n=30) reported increased connection with IMMA as a result of participating in Art & Ageing. Of the remaining, 15% reported a small change (n=10) and 29% reported no change at all (n=29), which was understood as some participants already feeling connected to IMMA, such as IMMA Members or past participants in the Studio 10 Adult programme at IMMA. Seven individuals did not respond to this question. 


Increased life satisfaction from art as a hobby/interest
In workshops to develop a Theory of Change and following interviews with purposively-sampled stakeholders, it was agreed that a long-term outcome for participants was an increase in their life satisfaction as a result of their engagement in art as a hobby or interest. This is best demonstrated by the following quote: 


”I am in isolation due to my age. I have not studied art before and found I enjoyed (Art & Ageing). I felt enriched and stimulated. I enjoyed the insight I got from the group. I will pursue this interest, it’s another world for me and I can enter it from my home. I felt my perceptions started to grow and was excited at this new aspect.” 

(Respondent 2) 

How this outcome was measured? 

This long-term outcome was measured using a post-hoc approach, which meant participants were asked to report on their level of change after attending Art & Ageing. The indicator used to measure this outcome asked respondents to self- report whether their life was more enriched from participating in the Art & Ageing activities. 

Key finding 

79% of respondents (n=52) reported increased life satisfaction from participating in Art & Ageing. Out of the remaining responses 18% (n=12) reported a small change and no respondents reported no change. Two individuals did not give a response.

Promoter of the initiative: Irish Museum of Modern Art

Country: Ireland

Languages available: English

Website or other online channels:

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