Partridge, Erin

Truth, trust and laughter: technology and art in the older adult context

Erin Partridge

As the world population ages, professionals in clinical and community settings need to develop new and innovative ways to support older adults. Previous approaches focused on medical wellness alone and unfortunately often treated older adults as dependent and incapable of making their own choices or communicating wisdom. Anti-ageist and empowerment-based approaches consider older adults as whole people with a wealth of knowledge from their lived experiences; they are able to contribute to research and to their communities. New approaches also tend to the whole person as opposed to treating diseases of later life without acknowledging the other human needs.

The social relationships of older adults are an essential support to biopsychosocial wellness. Creative arts therapists can support relationship development and social connectedness through the use of traditional arts, however, time and budgetary constraints may limit access to high quality, therapeutic arts experiences. Technology and new media can support older adults’ social relationships; use of these new media need to be explored with older adults as important stakeholders in decision-making. When considering adoption of new media, arts-based research and creative exploration can assist in determining if and how new technology should be incorporated. In several formal research studies and informal arts-based explorations, older adults worked with an art therapist to define their preferences in social relationships and explore how technology could support their ongoing social and emotional wellness. This session will review clinical and research experiences with older adults focused on communication and social connectedness. Social robots, digital art tools, and traditional art therapy techniques will be discussed as a means to inspire critical conversation about where technology fits in our creative human relationships.



Erin Partridge PhD, ATR-BC is board certified, registered art therapist and Experiential Researcher-In-Residence at Elder Care Alliance. Erin received a BFA in 2006, studying fine art, psychology and women’s studies in at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She went on to obtain a MA in Art Therapy from New York University in 2008, and a PhD in Art Therapy from Notre Dame de Namur in 2016. Erin’s teaching and lecturing experience includes teaching at NDNU in the art therapy department, guest lectures in art and counselling programmes, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, workshop facilitation at several national conferences, and interviews with media about art therapy. Her clinical experience includes work in community, paediatric, forensic, and geriatric settings, and she has published in the areas of art therapy, elder care, and technology. Her research interests incorporate the lived experience and focus on participatory, ethnographic, and art-based approaches.


Recent Publications

Partridge, E.E. (in press).  Art therapy with older adults: Connected and empowered. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Partridge, E.E. (2017). Amplified voices: Art-based inquiry into elder communication (Poster Presentation). In: Aging in America Conference. Chicago, IL.

Partridge, E.E. (2017). Carving a larger space: Lessons learned from transforming a workplace role. In: Art Therapy: Traversing Landscapes of Heart & Mind. Albuquerque, NM.

Partridge, E.E. (2016). Access to art and materials: Considerations for art therapists (Accès à l’art et aux matériaux: facteurs à prendre en compte par les art-thérapeutes). Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal, 29(2), 100–104.

Kremer, S., Carolan, R., Stafford, K., Partridge, E., & Hill, A. (2016). Getting connected: Research opportunities and exploration for art therapists. In: Emerging pathways: New landscapes in Art Therapy. Berkeley, CA.