Older Audiences and Museums

A report on older audiences and museums

Older people are an important and increasing group of museum visitors, particularly in Australia. The proportion of the Australian population aged 65 years and over grew steadily during the twentieth century and is projected to grow further during this century. In 1901 there were 151,000 people aged 65 years and over living in Australia , or 4% of the population. By 1998 this number had increased to 2.3 million, or 12% of the total population. It is projected that by 2051 this will have grown to between 6 to 6.3 million, or around 24-26% of Australians.

During 2002 a collaborative study was developed and managed by the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, the Australian Museum, Sydney and Environmetrics, a private market research company in Sydney, into the needs and expectations of older visitors in order to recommend ways that museums can respond to these. The research targeted Australians aged 65 years and over and included those who currently visited and engaged with museums and those who didn't. There were three phases to the project: an extensive literature review; a quantitative study via a telephone survey of Sydney and Canberra adults; and several qualitative projects consisting of depth interviews and discussion groups.

The published report , Energised, engaged, everywhere: Older Australians and Museums by Lynda Kelly, Gillian Savage, Peta Landman and Susan Tonkin (ISBN 0 7347 2311 3), provides comprehensive statistical and qualitative information about this group, specifically focussing on leisure habits and museum visiting. As well, a set of recommendations were made for museums to consider when programming for older audiences, listing over forty achievable things that museums can do to attract and satisfy older people that are universally applicable.

Lynda Kelly
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