Ageism Challenged Through EthnoDrama

Public discussion on ageing pays a great deal of attention to frailty, dependency, healthcare and pension challenges. Too often, discussion is shaped by negative beliefs about growing old. A policy focus on the economic cost of ageing societies creates further grounds for ageism – a social construct that depicts older adults negatively and produces stereotypes that ignore diversity. To date, very little research has been carried out with older adults in Ireland on their experiences of ageism. Working together with Cork Cultural Companions (Muintir na Tíre), AgeACTED addresses this gap in the research.

Aims and objectives

The primary aim of this project is to challenge ageism in Irish society.  This will be achieved by partnering with older adults to identify how they negotiate day-to-day experiences of ageism and, through ethnodrama, co-create a resource for creative engagement and dissemination.  

The project objectives are to:

  • raise awareness of ageism in post-pandemic Ireland among the public, community stakeholders and policy-makers;
  • develop a methodological roadmap for arts-based participatory research with older adults;
  • generate new insights into how older adults negotiate and respond to ageism;
  • develop creative methods of communicating research to diverse audiences through a stage-play and resource pack;
  • build a collaborative interdisciplinary, intersectoral network as a foundation for future research on creative participatory approaches to challenging ageism.

Using a participatory methodology, the research will be planned and carried out with a group of older adults from Cultural Companions’ community networks, ensuring gender and minority status representation. The project will employ ethnodrama: older adults will use their everyday stories of ageism to write a stage-play script. In addition to the script there will be a resource pack with materials that allow future participants and/or audiences to engage with the content in creative non-formal ways that deepen understanding of ageism. By documenting our research process, we will produce a roadmap for other creative projects in the future. Together, the script and roadmap will facilitate emotionally-engaged understandings of ageism to inform debate and policy.  


At Your Age?!, Granary Theatre on the 26th January, 2023

'At your Age' is a full-length, three-act play which explores ageing and ageism. The script was written by Dr. Elaine Desmond as part of an innovative project entitled AgeACTED (Ageism Challenged Through Ethnodrama) developed with Eleanor Bantry White, in collaboration with Cork Cultural Companions.  The play was devised from the verbatim words of discussions with six women in focus groups and drama workshops. The three main characters are vibrant, humorous, and non-conforming in their own inimitable ways. They must, however, negotiate feared future imaginaries around the changing physicality of ageing, concerns around death (both their own and that of loved ones) and a dreaded loss of agency associated with illness and ‘institutionalised’ care.  The play explores the resilience required to stay positive in the face of fears which are intensified through ageist framings surrounding the experience of ageing in contemporary society.

Five of the research participants formed the cast for a rehearsed reading of the play at the Granary Theatre on the 26th January, 2023.  The performance was directed by Fionn Woodhouse from UCC's Department of Theatre. The use of ethnodrama represents an exciting, new way of presenting research data in the social sciences and has established a stimulating collaboration between the School of Applied Social Studies, ISS21 and the Department of Theatre.  Feedback from participants and the audience was overwhelmingly positive and plans are ongoing to try to extend the reach of this inventive and touching new play to wider audiences.  

A draft copy of the script is available at the following link: At Your Age?! theatre script

Funder & Dates

This project is funded under the New Foundations 2021 Programme from December 2021 - December 2022.

Project Team

Dr Eleanor Bantry White (PI), Dr Elaine Desmond, Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan, Dr Fiachra O’Súilleabháin (School of Applied Social Studies) and Dr Fionn Woodhouse (Theatre), in partnership with Muintir na Tíre Cork.

For further details contact:


Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30