Presentation excerpt by Chris Mead – Creative Ageing Sydney Conference 2015
We have the creative influence to create agency in ageing and there is a somewhat silent agenda that you and I know,
That we don’t all want to play bingo on Wednesdays and we don’t all want to stich and sew.
We share the same fear as anybody of the future of institutionalised care,
And we want to make it better before we “get in there”.
Life is about the boxes getting smaller until we get the call for the six-footer.
The transitions of later life present the reality, that choices seem few.
As consumer directed care evolves, will the mould still leave us socially isolated?
Container care in our boxes, ageing in place.
And the man in the street may not want to connect with the creative ageing that we want to share,
Because he’s too busy channel surfing in his vinyl reclining chair,
With his like-minded LED mates who are fake, in a box. But they give him solace.
It’s been a really long time since he’s walked in a forest.
And what if the middle class social care models aren’t reaching the most vulnerable.
The public sector purse is pinning money to a tree, for the ill health ramifications of the socially isolated and lonely.
Ignore intergenerational poverty and disadvantaged communities seems to be poor economic sense.
Poor economic sense to have the invisible triple their hospital visitations,
Increase their chances of heart disease, early dementia and age care admissions.
Perhaps good economic sense is in fostering positive social ecologies.
Present choice, opportunity;
For our seniors to be connected to what they value and care about.
Family, purpose, sense of place in our community,
Flourish in their own decision making capacity,
Creatively heightening their own visibility.
May we be influenced by best practise arts and research,
Speak to the audience in their own language,
And assume that wealth of impact cannot be achieved by working in silos.
State arts as the complimentary prescription,
That sits alongside therapeutic and pharmaceutical means and not threatening to replace them.
Let’s make creative ageing mainstream and visible,
Work strategically to show what is possible,
Demonstrate economic value for our interventions,
So key decision makers with be influenced by our actions.
I’m not sure Mike would like the term of legend but the hat fits and we miss him already.
A little conscious of remaining courteous to the barrage of pushing bee liners is a memory from the 2010 Arts and Health Australia conference where Mike was generously absorbing the infectious enthusiasm he had stirred amongst delegates over tea. It was if we all had a story or three questions to ask and hoping he wouldn’t run out of copies of his book “Arts in Community Health – A Social Tonic.”
Mike writes in the closing of the books introduction, that he hoped what he had observed, learned and discussed in the field would “offer a route map of future connections”. He shapes his enquiry into “looking at how the multi-sector engagement with communities through the arts can establish a tonal centre that entrains a range of interventions to ‘sing from the same sheet’ as regards to community health development.”
His sharing of best practice, passion for creative collaborators and policy drivers impacts our work tremendously. Mike has offered a route map for future connections, a strengthening of voices and friendships where we share joint determination, curiosity and love for the work we do. We may be far flung from the “Angel of the North” but like others internationally, your arts in health “family” is tightly woven, celebrating your life and getting back to ‘arts is the business of health’… just as you would like.
VALE Mike White. Cheers from your Tassie daffodils.