Co-creativity, well-being and agency : a case study analysis of a co-creative arts group for people with dementia

Zeilig, Hannah, Tischler, Victoria, Williams, Millie van der Byl, West, Julian and Strohmaier, Sarah (2019) Co-creativity, well-being and agency : a case study analysis of a co-creative arts group for people with dementia. Journal of Aging Studies, 49. pp. 16-24. ISSN 0890-4065


At the heart of this paper is an exploration of artistic co-creativity involving people with dementia and their
partners. Co-creativity promotes a relational approach to creativity which nurtures inclusion and participation.
This paper investigates how co-creativity can affect well-being from the perspectives of people with dementia
and their carers; and explores how well-being and agency might be usefully reconsidered. The article draws on
findings from a small-scale study ‘With All’ that focused on music and dance as non-verbal and therefore inclusive
artforms. A range of disciplinary perspectives, from psychology, philosophy and social sciences, inform
the study. The research used an intrinsic case-study methodology and within this a mixed-methods approach was
adopted. This included dialogic interviews, video data analysis and the Canterbury Well-being Scale (CWS).
Thematic analysis of the interviews and video data revealed three key themes: autonomy, connections, and art as
an enabler. These themes captured the experiences of the participants and facilitated a more nuanced understanding
of wellbeing and agency in the context of living with dementia. The analysis of the CWS indicated some
improvements in well-being. Following this analysis using multiple data sources, the paper argues that wellbeing
and agency are best understood as relational, and ongoing, rather than completed states. Further both
wellbeing and agency contain their opposites (ill-being and passivity). This innovative exploration highlighted
the importance of co-creative collaboration as a method that was considered valuable by participants, and that
therefore should be further considered in future research with people living with dementia.

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