I’m pleased to be able to share my final report, which considers all my experiences to date in the UK, North America and Australia.
Writers Meet Elders, a creative writing & creative ageing project, explores the exciting possibilities for making and sharing stories and poetry. It examines the range of ways literary activity can engage writers and older people, as audiences, artists, collaborators and participants. And it reflects specifically on activities offering professional or creative development opportunities for writers.
I present my findings under five themes to define the different roles a writer can take in a project with older people. These roles—collaborating, facilitating, making, showcasing, and teaching—are offered with case studies of creative activities with older people in Australia and the United States of America. The case studies show the numerous possibilities for older people and writers to create meaningful and vibrant literature projects together.
Three key conclusions are that:
- Literary projects by older writers, with older adults and about ageing include dynamic spoken word poetry events and transmedia stories. There are huge opportunities to invigorate the field by commissioning artists of all kinds to develop projects.
- Formal artist training in the UK could be improved, and there must always be space for intuition, responding to the context and informal training.
- Bringing together editors, producers, writers and artists to review and generate critical discourse about the kinds of literary work being developed feels vital.
Sharing and debating this report are part of my next steps. And I plan to:
- Develop a creative befriending programme and commissioning project to link writers to older adults living alone.
- Explore poetry, film, sound and technology in a literature project made with elders.
- Support a training programme with practical guidance and mentoring, for a diverse range of writers
There is so much potential for artists to co-create literary activities with those in later life. For supporting and deepening the creativity of older adults. For organisations to commission bold, excellent and disruptive projects. This is a burgeoning area of arts practice, ripe for investigation by those willing to take on a challenge and be open to its possibilities.
I first started working with older adults alongside my local Age UK in 2012, and have since then had many tremendous conversations, shared challenging moments, gained insights and hopefully offered something towards the creative expression in later life.
With thanks to Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and Age UK Bromley & Greenwich for the opportunity to travel and research, and to all the people I met along the way.
So, what do you think? What strikes you as important? What is open to debate? I’m keen to hear your thoughts!
If you think there are opportunities for us to work together on a project or event, please get in touch – via the comments page, email (gemmaseltzer @gmail.com) or follow me on Twitter!
Image: From Arts for Aging’s ‘Dance and Blues’ session at Downtown Clusters Geriatric Day Care. Photograph by Stephanie Williams.