A new month begins, and with this new month begins The Age Of Creativity’s annual festival: sharing creativity with older people. Each year the festival has a specific focus, and this year it’s A Call To Action. This highlights how two years of pandemic have cast a long shadow, and how research has found that 25% of people aged 70 and over are unsure when – or if – their lives will return to normal. This strikes me as such an important focus, at this particular time.
It’s an opportunity to recognize openly that real issues remain, while highlighting the positive role that creativity plays and will go on playing. Creativity is beneficial for all ages, but older people, who may well have more time, are particularly likely to respond.
While creativity may have changed over the pandemic, with remote initiatives replacing in-person groups, in itself it has remained a constant, and this has to be one of its greatest strengths. The world ,.may have turned on its head, but the music played on, paint and pencils remained. And so they do still, for many a haven in the midst the confusion and uncertainties of “learning to live” with Covid.
So why is the Festival’s focus so important and why now? As restrictions fade into the past and many people do return to pre-Covid lifestyles, it’s an unsettling time. Vaccinations have prevented many hospitalisations and deaths, but actual case rates have lately soared. People who have shielded, who are CEV (clinically extremely vulnerable) still need to be particularly cautious. Moreover, two years of restrictions and lockdowns have left their mark. Many people have lost confidence, so that issues like agoraphobia and social anxiety have worsened, as well as other forms of anxiety and depression.
All these issues face people of any age, but are likely to be most common for older people: partly because of severe Covid’s link to age, but also because the pandemic came at a time when their health may well have been declining anyway. Going out less and taking little exercise, many older people’s mobility has nosedived, which further erodes their confidence. There are other big issues too – transport is one, while long waiting lists for healthcare for chronic conditions, and fear of catching Covid while in the hospital or doctor’s surgery, are others.
For some, it’s all become a”perfect storm”.
So this is why I feel it is so important for the Age Of Creativity Festival to focus on this theme, at a time when it might seem people are trying to pretend Covid has gone away.
I hope that in creativity and wellbeing, remote initiatives will continue (alongside the return to in-person events) in a hybrid approach, so that people still have opportunities to take part from home. My arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, will continue to run remotely. I hope digital exclusion will be less sidelined. I hope that people will recognize that those who struggle to return to normal life are not “just” nervous but have all kinds of real challenges and no quick fix. And I hope The Age Of Creativity Festival will open up all kinds of opportunities, in turn. Do have a look at the Festival’s website https://festival.ageofcreativity.co.uk/
Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002