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What's it worth? Value and valuation of late-life creativity

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Document pages: 16 pages

Abstract: New interest in late-life creativity has arisen in gerontology. To date, such research has mainly focused on the positive impact creativity has on older adults, but has scarcely contextualised older adults’ creative engagement. Drawing on the sociology of valuation, this article aims to contextualise late-life creativity by critically exploring how creativity gains, stabilises and loses its value and how these processes are related to perceptions, images and discourses addressing old age. Data from 13 interviews with older (60+) adults involved in creative practices in Austria are used to explore these topics. Interviews examined perceptions of creative production, everyday routines and personal attitudes towards ageing. Interviews transcripts were analysed using the documentary method. The analysis revealed three registers of valuation in late-life creativity: economic value, in which valuable creativity was given away at a high revenue; field value, where valuable creativity was appreciated by institutions or other artists in the field; and lifecourse value, in which doing a creative activity for a long time meant being able to produce a creative product that was high in value. This article emphasises late-life creativity as a process of value production that is structured by the making and evaluating of creative products and adds to the current critique that the narrow view of late-life creativity in its associations with wellbeing present a reductionist picture of the capacities that the arts and creativity have for older adults. The results demonstrate the potential for valuation studies in gerontology as they highlight the circumstances and practices by which the activities of older adults are (de)valued. For policy and practice, this article suggests imagining arts-based interventions for older adults beyond the realm of health and wellbeing, and encourages thinking about how valuable artistic experiences can be supported in later life.

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