To engage children and elderly people through art

utställningen 7 w3.3 sorg w1.4 bingodöden, lära känna varandra

This project began in 2016 to create intergenerational meeting places and to stimulate conversations about dying, death and loss between primary school children (about 9 years old) and elderly people (over 65 years old) who do not come from the same families.

In the project, we use a variety of art forms, such as the creation of collages in different materials, sculptures, drawings, and even games, to enable informal meetings between the participating children and the elderly people. The meetings are an opportunity to exchange experiences and thoughts about dying, death and loss.

The meeting places have been developed in collaboration with community organizations such as schools, activity centers for elderly, libraries, and artistic organizations. The collaborating partners involved and the art forms have varied during the course of the project depending on where it has been carried.

This collaborative process was guided by principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR). This means that we work with different organizations to jointly develop the project, while at the same time we study this development process, how participants experience the project, etc. This is an ongoing process that aims at continuous learning so that the research results can benefit the participating organizations and other stakeholders, and help us improve what we do in the future.

In the autumn of 2016, the first version of Studio DöBra was carried out in Skärholmen, a suburb of Stockholm, together with PUNKT127 – the library in Bredäng, Design Lab Skärholmen (Design Lab S) – a design studio for professional designers and children, as well as Eken – an activity and support center for elderly in the area.

Eight children (9 years old) from an after-school activity center, and eight elderly people (most over 80 years old) living in the area participated.The participants met on five consecutive Fridays. Through design and art they explored questions such as “where do we end up after we die?” or “how does grief feel?” The participants also told their story of the project by creating an exhibition entitled “Death, grief, life and other important things” that was shown at PUNKT127- the children’s library in Bredäng in December 2016 and then at the activity center Eken in February 2017.

So far, the project has led to the various participating organizations, previously unknown to each other, continuing to cooperate in various ways. Design Lab S has broadened their activities to also include elderly people and is now looking for funding for intergenerational projects. See the short film about Design Lab S “a collective design studio where generations meet”.

Using what we have learned in Skärholmen, we developed a Studio DöBra project in Halmstad which took place in the spring of 2018. The project was carried out in collaboration with artists and pedagogues working at the municipality of Halmstad.  Elderly participants were invited through a meeting place for elderly people, and children were invited through an after-school activity center.

Just like in Skärholmen, eight children (9 years old) and eight elderly people (most over 80 years old) participated. The participants met on five Thursdays at the meeting place for elderly people. They considered questions about death and loss by making mind maps, collages, and textile symbols for sorrow. The participants reflected over the life, death and after-life of a dead baby bird found by one of the artists, by making a large quilt together. At the last meeting, the bird was buried, and a ceremony was held to say goodbye to the bird as well as to the project. The participants invited family and friends and showed them their artworks.

Currently we are analyzing the data we collected during both projects and writing a first article about what we learned about developing Studio DöBra in Skärholmen.

We are now working together with collaborators from both project groups to develop a “toolbox” with information about how others can go about developing similar initiatives. The toolbox will also provide collaborators with content and support to disseminate knowledge developed through this collaboration. The toolbox will be available through this website.

Doctoral thesis:

The doctoral thesis from the project has been published here.


Title: Death, loss and community—Perspectives from children, their parents and older adults on intergenerational community‐based arts initiatives in Sweden
Authors: Max Kleijberg, Beth Maina Ahlberg, Rebecca Hilton & Carol Tishelman
Published: In journal Health and Social Care in the Community in May 2020

A narrated powerpoint presentation about this study is available here.

Title: Navigating power dynamics in engaging communities in end-of-life issues – Lessons learned from developing community-based intergenerational arts initiatives about death and loss
Authors: Max Kleijberg, Beth Maina Ahlberg, Alastair Macdonald, Olav Lindqvist & Carol Tishelman
Published: In journal Death Studies in October 2019

A poster presentation about some of the challenges and opportunities we found in developing the project in Skärholmen

The poster was presented at Advances in Health Care Sciences Research Conference 2017.

Project leader:


Max Kleijberg, PhD Student


Main supervisor:
Carol Tishelman, professor, Karolinska Institutet

Beth Maina Ahlberg, professor, Uppsala University
Rebecca Hilton, professor, Stockholm University of the Arts

Collaborating partners in Studio DöBra in Skärholmen:
Kirsi Sulin, operational leader Eken, activity and support center in Skärholmen
Hanna Bergeå, children’s librarian PUNKT127, The library in Bredäng
Samir Alj Fält, artistic leader, Design Lab Skärholmen
Alicia Donat-Magnin, operational leader, Design Lab Skärholmen
Carolina Alvear Bello, designer, Design Lab Skärholmen
After-school activity center for children

Collaborating partners in Studio DöBra in Halmstad:
Charlotte Libäck, Frida Arvidsson Berglund, Lena Engström, Hanna Hallén, The municipality of Halmstad (Halmstads kulturförvaltning)
Karolina Oad, The municipality of Halmstad (Halmstads hemvårdsförvaltning)
After-school activity center for children
Meeting place for elderly people