Care, collaboration and critique: The intersection of creativity and wellbeing in older women



In this paper, we investigate the intersection of creativity and wellbeing for older women based on the experience of a group who participated in a photography project in Melbourne, Australia. We draw on interviews with 18 women who participated in the 500 Strong photography project in 2019. This project aimed to raise the visibility and dispel stereotypical portrayals of older women through an exhibition of nude photographs of more than 400 women aged over 50 from Melbourne and regional Victoria. We suggest that, for the participants in this study, creativity and wellbeing are interlinked through the domains of care, collaboration and critique. For some women, the photography experience was an act of care, to liberate themselves from negative images of ageing and celebrate their bodies. For others, participation was a creative venture through which they could collectively acknowledge the contributions of older women. Some women participated in the photography project to raise awareness of, and critique policies detrimental to, older women’s wellbeing. The findings of this qualitative research with older women support the arguments that: 1) wellbeing is understood by the participants within a matrix of personal and structural security; 2) creativity is a critical and under-theorised dimension through which women make these understandings visible. This study contributes to literature on contemporary ageing that contests singular notions of decline and loss and to theorizing the use of creativity in wellbeing frameworks.


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