Research Underway

The purpose of this section is to serve notice of current Canadian research so that those wishing more information, or to collaborate, or to avoid duplicating on-going work can find out what is underway and not yet published.

Contact us with information on your current research for posting in this section.

This study explores the impact of active engagement in family reminiscence theatre on older adults in care with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Reminiscence theatre is performance created from the essence of real life stories and memories of older adults. This family reminiscence theatre initiative will develop, implement and document the process of creating theatre performance from older adults’ and family participants’ memories and stories. Individual reminiscence/life history interviews will be conducted with the older adult participants, audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and reviewed with participants for story selection and consent, to select content for play devising. A core company of reminiscence theatre artists will collaboratively devise a reminiscence theatre performance from these stories and through group drama workshops with the older adult and family participants.  Purpose: The objectives are to provide a context wherein older adults in care and adult family members engage in a novel arts/reminiscence theatre initiative to reflect on lived experiences, share memories, build relationships, increase social activity, and reframe perceptions of health and well-being.  The aims of the proposed research are to advance arts in health initiatives for older adults in facility care, and specifically explore family reminiscence theatre as an initiative to address the need for innovative, sustainable, dementia-specific programming which has the potential to enhance quality-of-life.  The primary objective is to explore if and how family reminiscence theatre engagement enhances quality of life for older adults in care with mild to moderate cognitive impairment.  Participants: The target populations of interest in this study are the older adult residents in care at the facility and family participants.  Outcomes: Outcome measures are primarily qualitative as this study is essentially an interpretive inquiry.  Ongoing ethnodrama field notes will provide data from the principal investigator’s reflections throughout the study. There will also be surveys and questionnaires employed.

Framework/Philosophy: The percentage of the Canadian population at least age 65 has been progressively increasing (Denton & Spencer, 2010), with the current demographic transition viewed as a period of accelerated population aging (Canadian Institute of Health Information, 2013).  Older adults are living longer, healthy, active lives in the general community (Chappell & Hollander, 2013).  The literature on social determinants of health identifies 14 factors linked to health and well-being (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010).  With regard to older adults, self-perceived health and psychosocial determinants are central to their quality-of-life (Lundberg & Manderbacka, 1996).  Older adults in care are increasingly dealing with complex, chronic health conditions many of which include various forms of cognitive impairment including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (CIHI, 2011, 2013).  The literature calls for innovative, sustainable initiatives to address these needs (e.g., Grone & Garcia-Barbero, 2001).

Time: January 2015 – June 2015
Location: Victoria
Resources Available: A comprehensive literature review on global arts in health initiatives in general; reminiscence and life review; reminiscence theatre; arts applications in dementia care; referenced lists. At the completion of this study, a user-friendly manual for reminiscence theatre in residential settings for older adults and families will be constructed.
Art Modalities: Digital Electronic, Film/Video, Multimedia, Drama/Theatre, Music, Singing, Storytelling/Poetry, Mixed Media,

University Of Victoria
Social Dimensions of Health Program, Applied Theatre Consulting Services
Initiative Contact: Trudy Pauluth-Penner, Ph.D. Candidate
Email: | Phone: 250-385-7260

This is an ethnographic research study (using interviews, observation and video) to better understand the important role of visual arts in the built environment as a contributor to healing and wellness for older people. Students from Emily Carr University took part in a community-based project to create paintings for a transitional care facility, where patients are older people who have been discharged from hospital but are too frail to return home. The study brings together an interdisciplinary team of practitioners and researchers in the fields of healthcare facility design, gerontological nursing, and art education.  Purpose: The purpose of the research is to explore how visual art that has been purposively created for a health care environment can benefit older patients by providing them a sense of meaningful place, while simultaneously understanding the transformative potential for students engaged in the creation of this art.  Participants: Older people with dementia who are in a transitional care facility, family members of the people with dementia, staff members of the facility, and students who created the art.  Outcomes: This research will provide a set of rich verbal and visual descriptions of how visual art in a transitional care setting benefits older people. We will have comparative data to inform understanding of how visual art contributes to wayfinding and social interaction, and a detailed thematic description of the experiences of students through their engagement in art as social action. Knowledge mobilization will include written reports for both academic and professional audiences; academic, educational and public presentations; website development; and arts-based activities.

Partners: Emily Carr University, Fraser Health Authority
Time: April 2014 – April 2016
Location: Surrey
Art Modalities: Colour Use, Painting,

University of British Columbia
Alison Phinney
Email: | Phone: 604-822-7484

Description: Obtaining the voices of older adult patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) about their health and healthcare experiences is important in meeting their needs for safe, quality care. This is especially important in rural communities that are well known to have inequities in health services. This pilot study, funded through a CIHR Catalyst Grant, used a mixed methods design to understand risks related to health service delivery for older adults with AF living in rural communities. It obtained the perspectives of patients, providers and decision makers. In understanding health care delivery risks, one part of the larger study involved 6-month patient journeys with 10 patients who kept logs, took pictures and participated in 1 and 6 month face-to-face interviews and monthly telephone conversations.  The use of photographs was a valuable tool that made visible aspects of the patients’ journeys with AF that were not accessible in narrative accounts alone. Photographs illuminated variations in patients’ journeys with AF, health service delivery risks in rural communities, and the lifespace impact of AF. Maintaining participant engagement with photo-taking over time, enhances the journey but poses challenges that need to be addressed to take full advantage of the photovoice methodology.  Purpose: Describe current service delivery for rural/small urban older adults with AF from the perspective of patients, service providers, and decision-makers; 2. Understand the needs, values, preferences, valued outcomes and feasibility of integrated care for this sub-population from multiple perspectives (e.g., older adult with AF, providers, decision makers); and 3. Identify strengths and gaps in services for older adults with AF. Participants: Ten journey participants, 13 older adult focus group participants, 10 providers, and 2 decision-makers.  Outcomes: All stakeholders identified healthcare risks related to services across the continuum (primary to tertiary), inter-professional team effectiveness, and patient-centeredness but differed in what they emphasized as most salient. The multiple perspectives gained from this study have practice, policy and research implications and provide a broad lens for addressing health service-related risks for rural older adults with AF. 

Partners: Interior Health
Time: January 2013 – March 2015
Location: Interior BC
Resources Available: We are currently working on knowledge translation resources
Art Modalities: Photography

University of British Columbia - Okanagan Campus
Faculty of Health and Social Development/School of Nursing
Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathy L. Rush
Email: | Web: | Phone: 250-807-9561

MaHRC is an inter-disciplinary, inter-laboratory, inter-departmental, inter-institutional research centre focused on five clusters of questions around sound and health.  MaHRC was established in the Faculty of Music in 2012 and is continuing to formalize affiliations, appoint members, and activate projects.

A primary goal of MaHRC to bring together inter-disciplinary teams of researchers to collaborate on questions of fundamental importance to our vision. This requires discussions in conferences, colloquia, workshops, etc to identify the fundamental complex questions and to define specific projects, obtain funding, and conduct research to answer these questions. A subsequent goal is to translate research to practitioners and the public to affect change in clinical practice and lifestyle.

MaHRC Focuses on 5 Research Spheres: 

  1. Medicine and Therapy (MaT). Music Therapy uses relationship-mediated music as a means to therapeutic goals (e.g., learning and communication disorders, psychological and psychiatric disorders, neurologic disorders, physical rehabilitation, psychosocial care, and palliative care). Music Medicine uses music/sound as “treatment” for a variety of neurological and physiological conditions such as Parkinson’s, Stroke, Pain, Depression etc.
  2. Brain and Mind (BBaM). Focuses on psychology of music, music neuroscience, and kinesiology with interest in the effect/relationship of sound, music, and music performance on the physical body.
  3. Society and Culture (SaC). A strong inter-disciplinary orientation involves history, musicology, ethnomusicology, anthropology, education, philosophy, geography, political science, sociology, etc. focused on examining the place of music and sound in the health of society.
  4. Science & Health of Performance (SHoP) – concerns about the prevention and treatment of medical problems associated with musical performance.
  5.  Music in Human Development (MiHD) – the role of music in prenatal to geriatric development and matters such as musical health and the role of music in cognitive reserve.

For more information visit 


The Sheridan Centre for Elder Research is a unique environment for conducting applied research into areas of practical concern and immediate relevance to older adults and their families. The Centre develops innovative approaches and creative interdisciplinary partnerships that focus on enhancing the lives of older Canadians.  One focus area for the Centre is Creative and Performing Arts; exploring how participating in the creative and performing arts promote healthy aging. In addition, the Centre develops innovative strategies to increase access to participation for all interested older persons, regardless of geographic location or any personal limitations.

Current Opportunities Include:

  • ENGAGE70+  This Consumer Insight Panel for adults 70+ creates an opportunity to "have your say" on matters that are important to you and what you view will be important for all Canadians 70+. While the content is not limited to the arts, they will certainly be an important part of the panel’s explorative efforts moving forward.   To learn more visit:     (Fall 2015).

Past Creative & Performing Arts research projects have included:

  • Music Listening and Participation with Older Adults.  This study evaluated the physical and mental health impacts of a 12-week music appreciation class, vs. a music expression class with adults over the age of 65.  (Spring/Summer 2011).
  • Dance for Older Adults. Multiple studies over the past 5 years at the Centre (including one funded by CIHR) have evaluated the impact of dance as a health promotion strategy for older adults. Researchers explored the physical, psychosocial and emotional changes in adults 55+ (in different studies) who were independently living in the community, living in retirement or long-term care homes, in assisted living facilities, attending adult day programs, living with diabetes or living with Parkinsons Disease. In all cases, dance had the potential to confer meaningful benefits to participants, suggesting it may be a suitable approach for individuals of all ages and abilities.   (2009-2014)
  • Latin Dance and Taekwondo to Explore Innovative Engagement Tools for use in Fitness Classes with Older Adults.  This study offered Latin Dance and Taekwondo classes, in-class and virtually, to older adults to evaluate the physical and well-being effects of participation, as well as explore the challenges and benefits associated with virtual participation in these types of classes. (Summer 2012)

For more information:  Pat Spadafora, Director of the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, at or visit