‘Life goes through in a book’: A case study of a co-creative narrative enquiry involving older adults living with early-stage dementia

Alison Waller, Gemma Seltzer, Wallis Eates

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    Arts participation and life review are recognised methods for improving the psychosocial wellbeing of older adults, particularly those facing challenges such as cognitive impairment. Many creative interventions taking this approach in care settings focus on large-group activities and often centre on visual arts, dance, theatre or music. This article reflects on the benefits that might emerge from a more intimate creative collaboration based on early experiences of private reading and continuing personal connections to childhood stories. It also proposes an innovative approach to life review, grounded in narrative enquiry that decouples storytelling from linear chronology or factual truths about the past. We discuss the project ‘Lifelong Reading: New Stories’, which allowed a small creative research team to work with two individuals living with early-stage dementia to produce fictional life-story books. We explore how this project encouraged co-creativity and created new story objects that disrupt conventional ideas about life review.

    © 2021, The Author(s). This is an author produced version of a paper published in PARTICIPATIONS: JOURNAL OF AUDIENCE & RECEPTION STUDIES uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalParticipations Journal of Audience and Reception Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


    • childhood books
    • co-creative
    • life review
    • memory
    • narrative

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