Creative Arts Bridge the Age Gap
21 Jul 2010
A London-based organisation is using people’s memories as building blocks for bringing different generations together through the creative arts.
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A London-based organisation is using people’s memories as building blocks for bringing different generations together through the creative arts. Age Exchange has been working for over 25 years with vulnerable and isolated elderly people to bring value to their memories, creating exhibitions, plays, documentary films, publications and other intergenerational projects.
Their work includes bringing together young people and the elderly and sharing the experiences and memories they have in educational and creative settings. For example, they provide ‘Reminiscences’ workshops in schools all across the UK, where trained elders explore themes within the National curriculum: Empire to Commonwealth; The Birth of the National Health Service; The Changing Role of Women; and London at War.
These workshops make use of older people’s memories with role-play and period artifacts, along with sound and film archive material. A school history lesson, for example, is suddenly made more real and tangible with first hand accounts of the past.
“Reminiscences is the opportunity for people to share life stories and be valued for doing that,” says Malcolm Jones, arts and education officer for Age Exchange. “Intergenerational work is where people want to be at the moment, because there is a feel good factor,” he adds. “They are probably the most marginalised group now in society.”
According to Malcolm, the purpose of this intergenerational work is not only to reach out to older people who are vulnerable but to educate the younger generation about the elderly rather than perpetuate stereotypes. “Media representation of old people is usually negative,” he says, “or it is only when they are doing something eccentric like ’85-year-old grandma does bungey jump’. But it is not representative of the community.”
Age Exchange’s recent theatre project, To Care For, performed at Greenwich Theatre, was an entire play based on real life experiences from Londoners’ memories of family, community and institutionalised care. People shared memories that were poignant and personal, from carers of Alzheimer’s victims, to family members who looked after elderly relatives.
It was a fulfilling experience, reveals Dave Savill, Age Exchange’s director of arts and education: “To see older people getting on a stage, telling a story, acting to people, non-professional actors as they are, and getting them to that level where they could communicate with an audience in a huge theatre, was enormously satisfying.”
Age Exchange continue to bridge the gap between generations, with the very simple tool of reminiscences and their project work is currently travelling internationally, including in Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and parts of Europe.
For more information please visit their website:
Image courtesy of Age Exchange
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