The baby boomers are now retiring and are healthy, adventurous, creative and energetic seniors. Many will live 30+ years after they retire. Many will live quality lives till well over 100 years old. Most will retain their enthusiasm and be very active throughout their lives and will demand social, economic and environmental well-being. Most will want to live in their own homes and they will remain their intelligence and demand activities.
The sickness model characterised by “Good morning dear, and how are we today?” must be replaced by a well-being model “Good Morning Mrs Brown, what are you doing today?” The well-being model for seniors has choice, creative engagement and social connectedness with others in society.
The Grey Power generation is embarking on a silent revolution and creative people and arts administrators should become a part of this social movement, which like all social movements will be lead by the energetic seniors themselves. Some of today’s 65 year olds were 60’s hippies and community activist. There is no reason they can’t be active in politics and the arts again.
No longer will the seniors sector be called “aged care”. It will be called retirement, but that word will mean action, and it will mean music, drama and films.
Currently the sickness model dominates the residential accommodation and programmes for many of our over 70 year-olds. Many programmes are imposed on the elderly. This is no longer satisfactory, and will become less acceptable as our baby boomers become older.
No longer is it acceptable to place the elderly in a room with a TV set “on full” or “keep them busy”, with “diversional” therapies in their residential homes. Programmes should not be run by nurses and health professionals they should be run by the elderly themselves and recreation specialists and artists.
This elder social movement is similar to the movements of the 1980s and 90’s associated with people with disabilities. That movement saw the closure of institutions and residents moved back into the community and taking control of their support organisations. That movement generated in New Zealand the creative spaces. These creative spaces provided positive employment of time and meaningful relationships for those who had previously been institutionalised. They encouraged creativity and creative choices.
At last there is a social movement being run by the seniors themselves and they are demanding the same choices - no more institutions, real community connectivity. This is social connectedness through creative activities not “care”.
Older people are writing novels and histories, making pottery and glass works, creating films and videos, performing in theatre and film, in orchestras and choirs. They are engaging in the men’s sheds and connecting more on the internet and digital platforms. Many are returning to universities and attending community learning courses and craft clubs.
These activities and the art works that result will not only be shades of grey, they will be shades of red, blue, yellow, green, purple, pink, orange, black and white.