Cultural Institutions to facilitate an age-integrated society

Catering to all generations

In 2016 HARI (Hallmark Ageing Research Initiative) provided funding for an innovative research pilot project designed to study the potential role of museums in facilitating an age-integrated society.

By 2055 Australia’s aged population (60+) will double with as many frail elderly as active elderly. Australian governments are increasingly supporting ageing in place. Within this context, cultural institutions could provide age-friendly environments, and support social inclusion, enrichment learning and age-integrated interaction.

The HARI pilot project was interested in documenting the experiences that older people have in museums and galleries with the longer-term aim of assisting cultural institutions to better cater to all generations and facilitate intergenerational communication through their activities, programs and exhibitions.

The collaborative research methodology involved three partner museums (Ian Potter Museum of Art, Shepparton Art Museum and Melbourne Museum), nine museum staff and 24 older participants.

Key pilot project outcomes included:

  • Literature review on cultural institutions as facilitators of age-integrated societies;
  • Roll-out of pilot project involving focus groups and staff interviews at 3 key sites;
  • Data collection documenting project objectives in terms of engagement approaches, design and access to inform an extended project scope;
  • 5 conference presentations, 1 symposium and 8 publications;
  • Negotiation with research collaborators and industry partners for an extended project;
  • Preparation and submission of further funding applications, including 2 successful grant applications;

Key pilot project findings highlighted:

  • The importance of the social element for older museum visitors;
  • Museum amenities and physical environments currently do not meet the needs of older visitors.

The HARI pilot project prepares for a larger interdisciplinary research project to develop and test strategies for engaging and including older people in museums. In light of the findings mentioned above, this includes gaining a better understanding of the heterogeneous needs and preferences of the older museum visitor and the design of the physical museum environment.

The results of the HARI pilot are currently informing a second project, titled The museum multiple: understanding older visitors, funded by the McCoy Scheme.

Both the HARI and McCoy projects are identifying key issues and themes that arise for older museum visitors. The findings will determine how museums might better cater for Australia’s ageing population in the future.

[Source: Dr Andrew Jamieson, Curator of the Classics and Archaeology Collection at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne]