‘Live gerontology’: understanding and representing aging, loneliness, and long-term care through science and art

Barbara Barbosa Neves (Leading Author), Josephine Wilson, Alexandra Sanders, Renata Kokanović, Kate Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article proposes an expansive conceptualization of gerontological research by engaging with a “live gerontology” that combines sciences and arts to better understand and represent aging and its diverse meanings and contexts. Borrowing the sociological concept of “live methods,” we argue that gerontology can benefit from a “live” approach-not only methodologically, but also conceptually. To guide pathways between artistic and gerontological fields and frame its practices and outcomes, we suggest four propositions for a live gerontology: (1) using multiple genres to artfully connect the whole-interweaving micro-, meso-, and macrolevels to contextualize aging within various sociocultural milieus; (2) fostering the use of the senses to capture more than just what people say-what they do, display, and feel; (3) enabling a critical inventiveness by relying on arts' playfulness to design/refine instruments; and (4) ensuring a constant reflection on ethics of representation and public responsibility. To apply and experiment with a live gerontological approach, we describe collaborations with an award-winning writer and an illustrator.The collaborations drew on qualitative data from a study on lived experiences of loneliness in long-term care through ethnography and interviews with residents of 2 Australian facilities. The writer explored participants' accounts as creative stories, which were then illustrated. Motivated by an ethics of representation, we aimed to represent findings without othering or further marginalizing participants. The creative materials offered more than appealing representations, shining new light on the intricate nature of aging, loneliness, institutionalization, and gerontology research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1590
Number of pages10
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Creative methods
  • Creative writing
  • Ethics
  • Illustrations
  • Older people

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