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Gerontologist. 2013 Dec;53(6):1009-19. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns144. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

How can contemporary art contribute toward the development of social and cultural capital for people aged 64 and older.

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*Address correspondence to Anna Goulding, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, 18 Windsor Terrace, Newcastle, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom. E-mail:



This article focuses on how visiting contemporary art galleries and discussing the artwork in facilitated focus groups affected culturally inactive participants' social and cultural capital. The research is taken from a larger study that explored the contribution that visiting contemporary art galleries made to the well-being of people aged 64 and older.


A total of 19 participants were given guided visits around 3 contemporary art galleries in the United Kingdom. Participants were drawn from categories identified as not already actively engaged in cultural activities (men, those with a limiting disability, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, those in lower socioeconomic groups and people living alone). Before and after each visit, focus group interviews were used to gage the impact of participation in the intervention in terms of subjective well-being. Follow-up interviews were held with participants and group leaders 2 years after the visits.


Spontaneous reminiscence was a functional part of the discussion that facilitated shifts in participants' social and cultural capital. Participants developed bonding social capital with each other, bridging social capital with group leaders, and linking social capital with gallery staff and researchers. Participants' cultural capital developed in terms of an increase in knowledge and understanding of contemporary art.


Understanding the interplay between social capital, cultural capital, and reminiscence has implications for programmers and policy makers trying to engage less culturally engaged participants in the arts. Developing bonding, bridging, and linking social capital and cultural capital through engagement with the arts may have implications for health, particularly among this demographic.


Contemporary art; Cultural capital; Culturally inactive; Reminiscence; Social Capital; Visual arts; Well-being

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