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This blog details the journey of a scoping review conducted to explore cultural activities tailored for older people from ethnic minority groups.


TOUS is a study funded through UK Research and Innovation. It is addressing this question: What tailoring is needed, how, when and for whom, to optimise cultural offers as part of social prescribing for older people (aged 60+) from ethnic minority groups? Cultural offers are activities, groups, exhibitions, events delivered in cultural venues and/or that have a creative focus. Cultural offers are wide ranging and experienced across populations as an outlet for fun, personal expression, communing with others and cognitive stimulation. They can be adapted to reflect the skills and needs of people involved, increasing their accessibility. Our previous research highlighted how cultural offers are enjoyed by and benefit older people as a means of supporting their broader health and well-being in the following ways: 

  • Immersion – being taken away (distracted), even for a short time, from problems in life.
  • Psychological holding – feeling safe and valued in a space that is warm and welcoming.
  • Connection – developing relationships and support through meeting others.
  • Transformation – personal growth by learning new skills and gaining confidence. 

Stakeholder meetings we carried out at the end of this study suggested additional research was required to understand how cultural offers were accessed and tailored to older people from ethnic minority groups. This resulted in the TOUS study. 

Work package 1

The first work package for the TOUS study has two components: 

  • A mapping exercise of cultural provision in the UK designed for and/or accessed by older people from ethnic minority groups. This involved inviting cultural providers, groups, or organisations to complete a short questionnaire. As part of this, we asked respondents to let us know if they had a report or evaluation of their service that we could access.
  • A scoping review to explore the question: What does the existing literature tell us about designing social prescribing cultural offers that are appropriate for older people from ethnic minority groups in the UK? A protocol for this review was produced. Finding documents to include in the review, as detailed below, has been harder than anticipated. 

The scoping review

The scoping review aimed to understand cultural offers, and how they are delivered, that reflect the needs and preferences of older ethnic minority populations. Understanding the perspectives of older people from ethnic minority groups is essential for designing culturally responsive and inclusive cultural offers tailored to their needs and preferences. Failing to do so may perpetuate disparities in access and participation, leading to missed opportunities for meaningful engagement and social inclusion. 

Finding documents for the review

In total, 906 items were screened, comprising 598 from databases, 300 from a Google search (grey literature), and 8 references obtained from the mapping exercise mentioned above. However, the extensive search across databases and grey literature yielded just two eligible references. In response to this scarcity of relevant literature, we reconsidered our inclusion criteria. Initially, we had intended to include only papers in which the majority of participants were older people (aged 60+) from ethnic minority groups. We decided to broaden the criteria to include studies with at least 10% ethnic minority representation in the sample. This change allowed us to include a wider range of studies that may not have met the initial strict criteria but still provided insights into cultural activities for older people from ethnic minority groups. The final review will be based on six included sources - three papers and three reports. They cover diverse cultural activities such as visual art galleries/museums, arts-based activities, participatory theatre, and craft sessions. Included sources involve varying numbers of older participants from ethnic minority backgrounds. 


The scarcity of literature yielded from the scoping review revealed an underrepresentation of older people from ethnic minority groups in cultural research, indicating an important gap in knowledge and understanding. It highlights the potential lack of culturally tailored interventions and services for these populations. This gap in knowledge can hinder efforts to design inclusive programs and initiatives that effectively engage older people from ethnic minority groups, thereby perpetuating inequalities in access to cultural opportunities. Addressing this gap through targeted research can inform the development of more equitable and responsive policies and practices within the cultural sector, ultimately promoting social inclusion and cultural diversity for all older adults. 

A lack of specificity in papers on demographic details around samples limited our ability to fully assess the diversity and representation of older people from ethnic minority groups in cultural activities. When this information was lacking in a paper, we did contact authors, but they were usually unable to provide further details. This meant that some papers may have been relevant, but we were unable to include them due to missing information about the demographics of the sample (in terms of age and/or ethnicity). 


This scoping review, which we are in the process of writing up for publication, will offer insights into cultural activities available for older people from ethnic minority groups, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and participatory approaches in their design and implementation. The journey of the review underscored the need for further research to address gaps in knowledge and understanding, as well as the importance of actively involving older people from ethnic minorities in cultural research and programming. We are in the process of undertaking further research on this topic; work package 2 for the TOUS study will involve some case study work – spending time with cultural organisations or groups that are designed for or with and attract older people from ethnic minority groups.


The TOUS study mentioned in this blog is funded by a grant from UK Research and Innovation (MR/Y010000/1). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funder or the authors’ host institution.


Scoping reviews are one of the topics to be covered in a short course being run by Dr Stephanie Tierney (one of the authors of this blog) at the University of Oxford.