How Can We Improve the Civic Engagement of Older People?

Bed 29How can arts and museum teams work with local government and their communities to support the needs of our oldest citizens? This is one of the many questions Entelechy Arts hope to answer at Older People, Isolation and Civic Engagement,  a national symposium exploring the potential role of arts and museum spaces in supporting the visibility and cultural engagement of the isolated old, on Tuesday 2 December from 11am-4pm. Entelechy Arts‘ Artistic Director David Slater lets us know more about it.

In his new book ‘Being Mortal’ the 2014 BBC Reith Lecturer Atul Gawande asks: ‘What makes life worth living when we are old and frail and unable to care for ourselves?’

At a time when we are experiencing huge pressures on public services and an ever increasing population of older, old citizens, it’s a question that we urgently need to respond to as a society. Maybe the journalist Tanya Gold has an answer. Writing in the Arts Council’s new journal ‘Create’ she suggests that ‘art and love are the only consolations’. Her words were provoked by a visit earlier in the year to Meet Me at the Albany:

‘This warm bright room at the Albany seems like a tiny fragment of paradise. This is what society would look like, if only we scrubbed away our ignorance and fear.’

Meet Me at the Albany has been running for just over a year and already in that short space of time it is attracting a huge amount of curiosity from people all over the country. In order to meet some of this interest the Meet Me team are hosting a national symposium with support from The Baring Foundation. The dictionary defines a symposium as ‘a convivial meeting for drinking, conversation and intellectual entertainment.’ On that basis it could be argued that Meet Me is a weekly symposium, I never drunk as much tea and coffee as I have done on Meet Me days. And of course the intellect is stimulated. Every week alongside the creation of art works people are dropping in for conversation and exchange. A couple of weeks ago it was a group of ten European architecture students from Belgium, health researchers want to visit to talk about their work, theatre makers are queuing up to discuss their ideas for new plays.  Suddenly isolated older people are at the centre of public discourse.

We want to use the Symposium to ask how arts, museums and library spaces can be more fully used as places where isolated older people can become valued, contributing and visible members of their neighbourhoods and communities. What role can culture play in making a life worth living? In different parts of the country new alliances and relationships are developing between cultural spaces, artists and health and local government teams who are attempting to develop and articulate new ways of thinking and doing. We hope to contribute to this wider discourse by hosting a national conversation at the heart of a very local initiative.

David Slater, Artistic Director, Entelechy Arts

For more information on the symposium and to book, please click here.