As a member of the forum and the planning group of the West Midlands Later Life Forum (WMLLF), I have listened with interest to Simon Wilkinson (DWP), and Keith Sherman, treasurer and former Chair speak about the Age Action Alliance and the diverse range of working groups arising from this forum.
The AAA was launched in 2011, primarily to bring together older people and cross sector organisations to celebrate the opportunities, and address the challenges, of our ageing demographics. Its vision is to create communities where older people feel secure, valued and able to contribute to society. There is currently a membership of over 650 and 3500 Twitter followers!
The theme groups, ranging from transport to digital inclusion, to age friendly communities to money management, must certainly have broad appeal and the WMLLF encourages its members to become actively involved in a theme group of personal interest, whether in a direct or indirect way.
So it was that the mention of the ‘Creative Arts Working Group’ reignited the dormant (mediocre!) artist in me and, before I knew it, I had asked to join this group, to which Keith Sherman is already connected as a ‘virtual’ member.
My belief in the value of arts with older people has been long held and, over the years, I have been privileged to participate in a number of arts based projects including textile art, linked to reminiscence, involving people living with dementia; improvised drama with members of a local Mind group, and the creation of a therapeutic garden for carers of people with dementia, about which poetry was written and extracts woven into the site.
The theme group meeting took place at The Claremont Building, Angel, London, an inspirational venue, being the local hub for a wide range of creative activity, including specialist art therapy. Round the table were people drawn from the Claremont Project and other organisations working with older people and with a link to the arts. As an ‘enthusiastic amateur’ I was made most welcome and the Chair, Jackie Richards, of Creative Dance 60+, led a most interesting meeting that enabled open discussion and reflection, with an aim of the group to decide upon an achievable activity that would make both a positive impact and a real difference to older people.
Following intensive discussion, it was agreed that the group would focus upon ‘Access to the Creative Arts’ for older people, with an aim to widen opportunities and choices across the arts; raise the profile of creative arts for older people; recognise the benefit of art as a therapeutic tool and celebrate art as a means of creating social cohesion and reducing isolation.
The members considered a range of factors that may influence whether an older person is able to access the creative arts. These discussions included the need for suitable and timely transport, gender, sensory impairment, living with dementia and having a caring role. The group also debated the importance of intergenerational opportunity and the associated benefits, effective publicity and the availability of artists, facilitators and volunteers.
In conclusion, a recommendation was put forward to source funding for a research project that will seek opinions of older people, as well as organisations and art facilitators working with/on behalf of older people, to produce an influential report that will shape access to the arts in the future.
Jan Roberts Policy Officer, Social Inclusion Unit, Business, Revenues and Housing,
Stratford on Avon District Council.
What do you think about access to the arts for older people? Have you any good examples of art activities in which you have been involved? Would you like to know more about the Age Action Alliance and the theme groups? If so look on www.ageactionalliance.org or email email@example.com