"Participation Is Fun and Empowering": A Participatory Approach to Co-Design a Cultural Art Program for Older Chinese at Risk of Depression in Hong Kong

Tianyin Liu, Rachel Chan, Crystal Yeung, Ling Cheun Bianca Lee, Tristan Nga Chee Chan, Keturah Welton, Terry Yat Sang Lum, Gloria Hoi Yan Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objectives: Internalized ageism and stigma of mental illness may disempower older people and impede help-seeking among those at risk of depression. Arts are deemed enjoyable, stigma-free, and conducive to mental health, and a participatory approach can engage and empower potential service users. This study aimed to co-design a cultural art program and test its feasibility in empowering older Chinese people in Hong Kong and preventing depression. Research Design and Methods: Adopting a participatory approach and guided by the Knowledge-to-Action framework, we co-designed a 9-session group art program using Chinese calligraphy as the channel for gaining emotional awareness and facilitating expression. The iterative participatory co-design process engaged 10 older people, 3 researchers, 3 art therapists, and 2 social workers through multiple workshops and interviews. We tested the program's acceptability and feasibility in 15 community-dwelling older people at risk of depression (mean age = 71.6). Mixed methods were used, including pre- and postintervention questionnaires, observation, and focus groups. Results: Qualitative findings suggest the feasibility of the program, and quantitative findings indicated its effects in increasing empowerment (t(14) = 2.82, p <. 05), but not in other mental health-related measurements. Participants reflected that active participation and learning new art skills were fun and empowering, arts enabled them to gain insight into and express deeper feelings, and groups with peers made them feel relatable and accepted. Discussion and Implications: Culturally appropriate participatory arts groups can effectively promote empowerment in older people, and future research should balance eliciting meaningful personal experiences and measurable changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberigad041
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Arts-based intervention
  • Creativity
  • Mental health
  • Self-stigma
  • Visual arts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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