#29 Stopping to pause

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Winston Churchill

Post #29 is a moment to reflect on this project so far, which is around nine months old.

Writers Meet Elders is a project I developed to bring together the strands of my thinking and practice about ageing and writing. 

It includes my writing projects with individual and older groups of people, and research into supporting writers to make creative work with elders. It’s supported generously by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and Age UK Bromley & Greenwich.

In 2015, I travelled to Australia to spend time thinking about what it means to work with those in later life as a writer, and why it matters to be listened to and be engaged creatively as an older person.

I visited projects and met writers, artists, cultural organisations, care centres and funders to consider opportunities for older writers and those working with older people.

Next week, I leave for the US to continue this research by visiting New York, Washington DC and Milwaukee.

The more I embark on this journey, the clearer my thoughts become.

Here’s three things I have in my mind at the moment:

  • There are so many ways that stories and poetry are being used in care and community settings, enabling older people to express themselves. They’re mainly writing for wellbeing and life-writing  projects, so I’m still keeping alert for imaginative projects that bring in writers to craft new work with those in later life.
  • I’ve been writing poems with older people. I wonder how my writing practice is impacted by working with elders. When writing about dementia, there’s a tendency to write in fragments: text on the page loses meaning, words drop off the end of sentences. This can be evocative but the focus on what is lost may limit the kind of writing being made.
  • Training for artists to work with older people exists, usually learning a specific model of practice. I’m enjoying uncovering additional ways that writers can source their own support. For example, attending a Death Cafe and talking to strangers about end-of-life, care, and ageing could offer a supportive space for artists.
  • My big dream is to set up one-to-one creative commissions between older people and writers/artists–a kind of creative befriending scheme. The two people–the writer and the older person–develop writing, art or a literary project together.

I’m excited! There’s a lot more to see and do.