The 'Age-Friendly' Intergenerational Reach Through the Arts

The 'Age-Friendly' Intergenerational Reach Through the Arts

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Kathy Black

As noted in a past blog and our August newsletter, Florida Studio Theatre's play, “Old Enough to Know Better,” has stimulated introspective considerations among theater goers. And these reflections have in turn enhanced broader community dialogue about aging -- a very good thing for all involved!

I recently participated in a panel discussion about the play and many attendees shared their thoughts in interaction with me and several community professionals including: Valerie Libscomb, a professor specializing in the performance of age in theater; Carrie Seidman, a journalist focused on the arts; and Paul White, a licensed clinical social worker who provides adult psychotherapy.

As noted by Florida Studio Theatre (FST), the prevalence of people attending the shows represented their traditional audience in age demographics -- mature older adults. And at the panel discussion, about 20 to 30 FST attendees shared how the play resonated --how they related to the content, how the content raised issues that they are now aware of that they, too, will likely face, and many of their concerns about the future that lies ahead.

Issues of “reach” to others in the community were raised, and it is indeed interesting to note what issues most impacted theater goers across a range of ages. The following recounts some of the impressions shared through the views of audiences members at different ages of life:

According to a woman in her early thirties, “The play really humanized the aging population for me. It reminded me we're all vulnerable as we move through the stages of life and are seeking similar goals - love, connection, a sense of purpose and belonging.” 

Another woman in her forties noted that she observed older audience members, “feel the impact of the words,” across humorous and sad expressions performed in the play. She noticed couples reach for each other’s hands and hold them tight with love and saw several people tear up and smile. Many she noted, nodded their heads in agreement with what they viewed.  In her own personal response to the show, she noted the following: “The show made me stop and realize the truthfulness of aging for myself.  That everything the actors were saying was truthful on some level when it comes to growing older.  I also realized how little we really as a society talk about all of the aspects of getting older.  It would be so helpful for the younger generation to really understand what it will really be like.”

A sixty-something attendee further shared that she was, “reminded that while there may be themes in growing older—each person is an individual and has a unique experience, framework and opinion.” 

Based on the post-feedback shared, a few interesting observations can be gleaned:

- For the young adult in her thirties, aging is humanized as “we” all are essentially just people – with the same basic needs and desires of our younger selves.

- The greater awareness of how others related to the content represents deeper considerations of the middle-aged woman and how much closer she is to these issues vis-a-vis her own chronological journey.

- And finally, a sense of greater acceptance of self and others is expressed by the woman in her sixties -- perhaps representing the gift of wisdom that only gets better with age!

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