Older people and the arts – some facts and questions

In the run up to our Bolder and Wiser symposium next week, I thought I’d share some receOlder Peoplent snippets and thoughts after attending a recent IPPR event (Ageing and Wellbeing in an International Context, 7/Sep) to get your thoughts flowing.

We’re all getting older, and more numerous …

  • Current birthrate is below replacement level
  • 1 in 4 babies born now are expected to live until they’re 100
  • Globally, the number of people over 60yrs will triple by 2050
  • In the more developed regions of the world, 21% of the population are over 60yrs, projected to rise to 33% by 2050

In this country, although we’re living longer, we’re still retiring by 65 years … Q: What do people do with their time for the next 20+ years, and what role can art and culture play?

The role of volunteering is increasing on agendas of health and wellbeing of older people. There was an interesting debate at the seminar between acknowledging that there are benefits of volunteering, but also highlighting the danger of a discourse of enforced retirement by 65 years, while encouraging voluntary work which doesn’t have the financial benefits and security of paid employment. Audiences London did some focus groups recently with some arts-engaged older people, and one strong message was that people were really enjoying being able to try all kinds of skills and activities now that they are retired, because they’ve got more time. One woman in particular had just recently taken up dancing, having never done it before, and she was having a ball! … Q: Can the elements of volunteering that are beneficial be incorporated or used by arts organisations to engage with older people?

However, older men getting involved in participatory activities, or attending events, seems to be generally a bit less common and often experience greater levels of exclusion … Q: Do we need to think about tailoring the ways in which we engage with older men as distinct to engaging with older women?

A number of projects working with older people are using arts as a means through which to communicate and undertake research with older people. The project may not be specifically about the arts, but the arts are being used as a tool for engagement … Q: Does this help us think of different ways to collaborate in terms of reaching older people?

Hope to see you next week to explore these issues, and many more.

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