Impact of art on older people: research findings published

Impact of art on older people: research findings published

What is the impact of arts engagement on the quality of life of older people? Together with Amsterdam UMC and supported by ZonMw, we conducted a 2-year research project. We recently published our findings in a special issue of scientific journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Please click here for the open access article ‘The Value of Active Arts Engagement on Health and Well-Being of Older Adults: A Nation-Wide Participatory Study’.

An emerging body of research indicates that active arts engagement can enhance older adults’ health and experienced well-being, but scientific evidence is still fragmented. There is a research gap in understanding arts engagement grounded in a multidimensional conceptualization of the value of health and well-being from older participants’ perspectives. This Dutch nation-wide study aimed to explore the broader value of arts engagement on older people’s perceived health and well-being in 18 participatory arts-based projects (dance, music, singing, theater, visual arts, video, and spoken word) for community-dwelling older adults and those living in long term care facilities. In this study, we followed a participatory design with narrative- and arts-based inquiry. We gathered micro-narratives from older people and their (in)formal caregivers (n = 470).

The findings demonstrate that arts engagement, according to participants, resulted in (1) positive feelings, (2) personal and artistic growth, and (3) increased meaningful social interactions. This study concludes that art-based practices promote older people’s experienced well-being and increase the quality of life of older people. This study emphasizes the intrinsic value of arts engagement and has implications for research and evaluation of arts engagement.

The article ‘The Value of Active Arts Engagement on Health and Well-Being of Older Adults: A Nation-Wide Participatory Study’ by Barbara de Groot, Lieke de Kock, Yosheng Liu, Christine Dedding, Janine Schrijver, Truus Teunissen, Margo van Hartingsveldt, Jan Menderink, Yvonne Lengams, Jolanda Lindenberg, and Tineke Abma was published in Augustus 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

For more information, please contact Lieke de Kock or visit the project website

Wanted: older dance talents

Wanted: older dance talents

Dancing is not only good for body and mind, but also for the mind. This applies to the young and old. Yet dancing young people dominate social media such as TikTok and Instagram. With the initiative ‘Danstalent’, Leyden Academy and the Jo Visser fund want to show what the older generation has to offer. They also have ‘signature moves’ and can encourage young people to imitate them.

Elderly people and their favourite dance step
We are looking for elderly people who show their favourite dance step in a short, simple video (recorded with a mobile phone). This can vary from salsa, ballet, modern dance, waltz and tango to hip hop, rock & roll, wheelchair dance, line dance and tap dance. We are also curious about the story behind it. What exactly does that dance mean for that person? What is their favourite memory of that dance? From the entries we will make a selection that will be professionally filmed.

Dance challenge for young people
We will then distribute the professional videos via social media, challenging young people to imitate the moves. With this initiative, we want to bring the talents of the old and young together and positively colour the image of older people. Dance talent connects to the public debate about the elderly and their options, following the Dutch public campaign ‘The value of aging’. The Danstalent videos will kick off a symposium in January 2022, where the results of Anna Carapellotti’s research into the effects of dance interventions will also be presented. Anna conducted her research at the inclusive dance program ReDiscoverMe, where professional dancers create dance performances together with people with disabilities.

Are you or do you know a 55+ dance lover? You can e-mail the dance video (max. 3 minutes) to Jacqueline Leijs ( until Monday 11 October. Please include your name and age and briefly indicate what this dance means to you.

Looking for the new Leyden Academy portrait

Looking for the new Leyden Academy portrait

Each year, alternatingly the portrait of a vital older man or woman is selected to represent Leyden Academy on communication outings (e.g. for website, brochures, banners etc.). For this year, from 11-11-2021 through 11-11-2022, we are looking for an older man (75+) who radiates joy and a lust for life.


  • Send us a nice portrait photo with a brief introduction of the person involved (background, life motto, hobbies, etc.).
  • Feel free to submit several photos of multiple persons.
  • The management and communication department at Leyden Academy will select the ‘winning’ portrait.
  • Photos can be submitted up to 27 September 2021 to Yvonne Schinkel-Koemans at
  • The picture is royalty-free and will be used by Leyden Academy.
Stereotypical approach to elderly migrants does not do justice to diversity

Stereotypical approach to elderly migrants does not do justice to diversity

The specific cultural background of elderly people with a migration background does not appear to determine their care wishes and needs. The mutual diversity is great, which means that wishes and needs are very personal and partly depend on where and how someone has lived. Migrant elderly also experience problems with obtaining formal basic care and its quality. Nina Conkova (Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing) and Marina Jonkers (Knowledge Center for Healthcare Innovation, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) were interviewed on this matter by Movisie, a Dutch knowledge institute for a coherent approach to social issues.

Every person is different
The one-sided stereotypical image of older migrants – on which policy is still being made – is incorrect, according to the above mentioned researchers. This also applies to care for the elderly, where it is still often assumed that culture-specific facilities are much better for elderly people with a migration background, because this would take more into account their specific wishes and needs. Nina: “We saw, on the other hand, that too much is being based on uniformity and stereotypical assumptions, while the group of elderly people is very diverse. This in turn leads to unrealistic expectations about specific care for father or mother, which is not there. It simply remains a Dutch setting with a few culture-specific adjustments, such as halal food or a room that is decorated differently. And that doesn’t work. It is about personal attention and customization. Every person is different.”

Sushi in the nursing home
The article is illustrated by striking examples and striking statements. Such as the Moroccan Muslim who indicated that he would later like to be able to continue practicing his religious habits in a nursing home, but would also like to eat sushi. Or the Turkish gentleman with dementia who visited a culture-specific daytime activity where people were divided into groups according to nationality. The man was assigned to the Turkish group, but always went for a walk to the elderly who were born in the Netherlands. He turned out to have been the owner of a nightclub and had always lived among the people of Rotterdam. A wise lesson for the coordinator of the daytime activities, who from now on asks further during the intake about how someone’s life was and what someone likes are.

Click here for the Dutch article.

Scientifically substantiated value of art in healthcare

Scientifically substantiated value of art in healthcare

A large-scale participation study into art in care in the Netherlands shows that art brings pleasure, positivity and deep contact, and that it challenges, according to the older persons, artists and care workers involved. Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing and Amsterdam University Medical Centre provide a solid scientific basis and thus strengthen the place of art within healthcare practice and contribute to the quality of life of the older persons.

“With this scientific basis, we are even stronger in our shared ambition to make art and culture an integral part of the range of care, support and welfare.” – The director of research funder ZonMw

Fun, deep contact and challenge
The study mainly looked at the value of art activities such as dance, drawing, music, singing, poetry, theatre and visual education in long-term care for the elderly. The research team collected 470 stories from older people participating in existing art initiatives and programs and carried out 40 observations. Professor Tineke Abma from Leyden Academy: “This study shows that art and creativity in healthcare can be very valuable: to be able to express yourself, to feel connected to others, to forget your limitations for a while and to be approached from what you can still do. In addition to this feedback from the participants, the care workers, informal carers and artists also emphasize the value of the activities for themselves. They experience pleasure, deep contact and are challenged in their profession.”

“Only afterwards did I hear that this had helped one of the participants to come out of the dejection. Those afternoons meant so much to them. It gave them something completely different to focus on.” – Theatre maker

Art in times of corona
The restrictions imposed by the corona pandemic and the associated measures quickly changed the course of the research project. Nevertheless, the artists provided an alternative, but equally valuable, interpretation to the activities within the various programs and initiatives. Because in this difficult time, the participants needed the  distraction, inspiration, comfort and contact even more.

“Now with corona, people experience a lot of problems. Reason enough to need a psychiatrist or a psychologist. But I think a blanc canvas, brushes and paint will be more effective.” – Participant in one of the art initiatives

The research project ties in with the worldwide movement for more art in healthcare, supported by the World Health Organisation. In healthcare there is a need for creativity, to colour outside the lines, to support the enthusiasm of employees and to work in a demand-oriented way. In the social domain, there is a demand for promoting participation and connection between citizens, and the cultural sector wants more connection with society. Participatory art can play a role in this! All this requires better cooperation between the government, municipal officials, funds, administrators in care and welfare, project leaders and artists.

Click here for the Dutch publication.

Growing old with health and vitality

Growing old with health and vitality

Is there a miracle cure for growing old with health and vitality? In a PEP talk, David van Bodegom, aging scientist at Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing and professor of Vitality at Leiden University Medical Centre, talks about the influence of moving more and sitting less still during normal daily activities. In addition, the environment you live in has a major impact on how healthy you stay.

Healthier lifestyle
Van Bodegom gained his insights during years of fieldwork in rural Ghana. In that country, age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are rare. Because of their lifestyle, Ghanaians often grow old in a healthier way than people in the Netherlands. David explains why in this PEP talk video (in Dutch).

Our environment
Van Bodegom and Rudi Westendorp (University of Copenhagen) have bundled their most important insights about aging, health and vitality in a Dutch book (translated into ’10 years extra. A new approach to living healthier for longer’). Is it really possible to give yourself ten extra healthy years of life, as the title of this book suggests? Yes, according to the authors, who claim the key to this lies in our environment.

Towards a healthy daily routine
In the book various environments from everyday life are discussed, such as the kitchen, living room, bedroom, supermarket, work and the neighbourhood. Don’t expect raised fingers; this approach is based on seduction rather than prohibition. By surrounding yourself with smart and healthy choices, a better lifestyle can unnoticed become part of your daily routine. Swap large wine glasses for small ones, walk to the supermarket and use a backpack, walk or cycle a part of your daily commute. All these small adjustments, repeated over and over, add up to a large and lasting effect.

Four words
Van Bodegom and Westendorp introduce the readers to four leading words. The first strategy is that of ‘remove’: put unhealthy stimuli out of sight. So don’t store cookies in a glass jar but in a closed drum, and don’t put it on the coffee table but in a kitchen cupboard. That way you won’t always be tempted to grab another one. You can also ‘replace’: exchange those cookies for unroasted nuts. And place a bowl of carrots at eye level in the fridge where the cream puffs are normally located. In public spaces it is more difficult to remove or replace temptations, here it is better to ‘avoid’: if you know that you always give in to a cheese croissant at the bakery, then walk around the block. Or you ‘prepare’: eat a banana and drink a bottle of water before you go to that reception. Then you can better resist the tempting snacks and dr, wine and beer.

The added value of a course on entrepreneurship for older people

The added value of a course on entrepreneurship for older people

In July 2021 Julia Heidstra successfully completed her MSc Vitality & Ageing in Leiden. The subject of her thesis was the impact on the wellbeing of older persons who participated in Silver Starters, an intensive online course on entrepreneurship which ran from January to March 2021 and was developed and organised by Leyden Academy and Aegon. Julia’s research found that these ‘olderpreneurs’ gained on eudaimonic wellbeing, and that it enabled them to flourish even more.

Eudaimonic wellbeing
There is a trend from welfare towards wellbeing when it comes to evaluating how successful populations are at managing health. Eudaimonic wellbeing is associated with mental health and is linked to physical health. Improving eudaimonic wellbeing can thus be useful in increasing population health. Leyden Academy has been at the forefront of stimulating focal areas of eudaimonic wellbeing: meaningfulness, connectedness and vitality. One of our recent interventions is Silver Starters. It has been shown that societal engagement, such as volunteer work or later life employment contributes to purpose in life and meaningfulness.

About Silver Starters
In this free-of-charge, personal learning program people aged 50+ learn the basics to turn their idea into their own business in several modules of online learning and personal coaching by experts. Almost 100 ‘olderpreneurs’ participated in the course, working on start-up ideas ranging from lung function testing, virtual reality learning applications to improving self-sufficiency of agricultural products in Curaçao. Whilst it is too early to judge whether any of these start-up ideas will actually grow into (internationally) listed ventures, research carried out by Julia on the impact of the course showed additional benefits to the participants.

Research method and question
Julia used qualitative and quantitative measures. Respondents (N=40), completed Diener’s Satisfaction With Life Scale and a single question about whether participants found that the course had impacted their wellbeing and answers were recorded on a Likert-like scale. Furthermore, in-depth interviews were then conducted (N=10) to investigate the impact from the participants’ perspectives. The following questions guided this impact research:

  • Did participation in Silver Starters have an impact on the individual’s wellbeing?
  • How did participants evaluate this wellbeing?
  • How did participants feel that Silver Starters provided them with a tool to achieve eudaimonic outcomes in the future?

Participants reported high levels of wellbeing that was even more positively impacted by participating in Silver Starters. One of the reasons of these high levels of wellbeing were the proactive coping strategies participants demonstrated. Such coping strategies focused on personal growth and adaptation, for instance reflecting on experiences, seeking learning opportunities and putting things in perspective. Feelings of connectedness and meaningfulness were associated with vitality. This indicates that Silver Starters not only provided entrepreneurial skills, it also enabled flourishing. These findings suggest that a course in entrepreneurship can add so much more to society than economic values and that it can even help in managing population health.

You can always start again but there’s always something that can go wrong. I thought, I need a better foundation, how it is done, because at school you only learn useless things, formulas and French and things you’ll never need. You don’t learn about life. Entrepreneurship is, that is a lot closer to life than all the knowledge you have to learn.’ – 57-year-old participant

Click here to read Julia’s thesis.

Publication Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities

Publication Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities

In July 2021, the publication Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities was published by Bristol University Press. This four-part collection includes volumes on Community and Society; Housing and Home; Public Space and Mobility; and Policy and Planning, and explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on (inequities in) society and people’s lives.

The first volume, edited by Brian Doucet, Pierre Filion (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) and Rianne van Melik (Radboud University), centers on Community and Society, and includes the article ‘Following the Voices of Older Adults During the COVID-19 Crisis: Perspectives from the Netherlands’, by Leyden Academy authors Jolanda Lindenberg, Paul van de Vijver, Lieke de Kock, David van Bodegom, and Niels Bartels. In this article, we share the experiences of older people in the Netherlands through the eyes of Mbarek, Joke, Wim, and Maria, who previously shared their personal stories on our platform We & corona. We also share findings from our qualitative research into the experiences of older people in times of COVID-19.

In addition to the perspective of older people, the impact of the pandemic is also discussed in this edition from the point of view of people who live below the poverty line, (labour) migrants, transgenders and people with a visual impairment. Contributions come from all over the world: from Jamaica to Turkey, and from New Zealand to Vietnam.

You can order the publication through Bristol University Press as hardcover (GBP 36,00) and ebook (GBP 10,39).

For more information on our qualitative research into the quality of life of older people during the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.

A brighter future with the Master Vitality & Ageing

A brighter future with the Master Vitality & Ageing

Discover the colourful careers of a greying society with the Master Vitality & Ageing. Become an expert on healthy ageing, co-creation, innovation and health management of an ageing population. Are you interested in learning more in an international setting and want to obtain a master degree? Join the Experience Day on the 8th of June and find out what it’s like to be Vitality & Ageing student! Click here for more information and to register.

The Master Vitality & Ageing is not only a great opportunity for Medicine students, but also for other disciplines such as Biomedical Sciences, Health Sciences, Health and Life Sciences, Health and Society, Movement Sciences, Nutrition and Health, and Psychology. You can register as a first or second Master, in a full-time or flexible programme. This latter is perfect should you wish to combine your job in the elderly care with a matching Master.

We have received so many enthusiastic reactions from present and past Master students. They are the best ambassadors, and their words speak for themselves:

Jodie, Vitality & Ageing and Medicine student: “After my Bachelor’s in Medicine, I had a long wait before I could start with my medical internship. To fill up this time usefully, I decided to look for a Master’s to complement my knowledge in the medical field. The programme helps me to better understand my future patients and ask for their wishes, needs and views on situations. It teaches me valuable and exceptional lessons which I take to heart to become a better doctor.”

Lisa, Vitality & Ageing student and psychologist: “The Master Vitality & Ageing teaches me to look beyond the borders of my work as a psychologist. I believe the increasing complexity in the elderly care asks for good collaboration”.

Should you have any questions, please contact the student ambassador Marieke Vieveen ( or the study advisor Lucia Creveld (

Are you looking for a brighter future as well? You can sign up for the Master Vitality and Ageing until the 15th of June!

More information on the master Vitality & Ageing

Silver Starters selects the most promising 50+ start-up

Silver Starters selects the most promising 50+ start-up

The final of Silver Starters took place on the 25th of March. Silver Starters is a free, Dutch learning program that Leyden Academy and Aegon have set up for people over 50 who want to start their own company. No fewer than 83 enthusiastic participants completed the program and were inspired by the modules, lectures by experts and guidance by coaches. Eventually, five participants reached the final and gave an inspiring pitch, after which an expert jury chose the most promising idea and the digitally present audience also chose a winner. Both winners were awarded a prize package.

The winning ideas
The expert jury, consisting of Tineke Abma (director of Leyden Academy), Hendrik Halbe (CEO Unknown Group), Nadine Klokke (CEO Knab) and Arjan in ‘t Veld (Bureau Vijftig), was impressed by all the finalists but ultimately chose the idea for a lung function center of the 57-year-old Karin Lammering. Karin wants to make advanced lung function research accessible and affordable. Of course, especially given the current coronavirus, that is good news for people with lung problems, but also for general practitioners, practice assistants, sports doctors, companies, etc. Not only does the jury find her plan well thought out, they are also impressed by Karin’s thoroughness, who has already quit her job. “I believe in my idea and go for it with all my heart and passion,” says Karin. 55-year-old Willy de Heer became the convincing audience winner. With the help of a serious learning game she wants to help people understand each other and thus bring about behavioral change. This could include children who learn difficult or easy, autism, ADHD, depression or discrimination. According to Willy, you can help someone better if you understand him or her better. Click here to read the interview with Willy de Heer.

Participant perspective
The program provided the participants with tools to take a closer look at their idea, adapt it if necessary and convert it into their own company. “We also see a social benefit; participants feel more active, they are better prepared for their future and their self-confidence has increased ”, says program leader Jolanda Lindenberg. The enthusiastic responses show that the participants really appreciate Silver Starters: “The Silver Starters program was a great discovery. Acquiring knowledge and looking for opportunities at my own pace. It taught me to make a choice and to focus. This is partly thanks to valuable conversations with fellow participants and an expert coach.” “Silver Starters has made me realize that I have to focus primarily on the customer’s problem and not on my solution!”

From idea to company
Older entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, not only in the Netherlands but also internationally. Despite this, there are hardly any start-up programs aimed at that target group. Leyden Academy, Aegon and Hands on Innovation therefore developed the free learning program Silver Starters. During the process, the participants gained insight into customer needs and wishes, revenue models, marketing and prototyping, and worked towards independent entrepreneurship with the help of a coach.

Leyden Academy and partners hope to organise Silver Starters again in 2022.