Eldering Report

By Kevin Brown | Bio

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with a local group of leaders that were actively engaged in Eldering activities in the heart of Calgary Alberta, Canada.  I was fortunate in that one of those leaders, my Uncle George Hopkins (a gentleman who really espouses the Eldering Principles), shared with me the contribution a group of seniors are making within their community.

George is currently active with a group of elder leaders in his community bringing together seniors and youth in community theatre events.  He and his group have been partnering with Mariette Sluyter, founding director of the Foundation Lab, a theatre organization that uses storytelling as a strategy for human growth, community development and societal potential.  Mariette’s work with the Seniors Action Group of Calgary developed intergenerational theatre that brings together seniors and youth.

Mariette and George shared with me their recent theatre projects, whose purpose was to explore issues that impacted multiple generations.  Rather than use professional actors, they chose to use everyday youth and seniors and have them act out stories and issues that the community faced. One of the plays was about a ‘generation lost’ in which seniors and youth had difficulty relating to one another in language, experience and culture. Mariette chose to have the teens play the parts of seniors and the seniors play the parts of youth. Seniors had to learn the lingo, mannerisms and views of youth; and youth had the opportunity to learn of the views, challenges, and (for some) the isolation that can occur for seniors.  Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a very different generation.  I learned first-hand how this project brought two generations together, increased understanding and appreciation for one another, while providing lots of entertainment, laughter, and a deepening sense of community.

Another leader I spoke with during our session was Nicole Hergert, a counselor with the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.  Nicole approached the Seniors Action Alliance with a rather unusual proposal.  Within a program called Seniors A Go Go, Nicole approached the seniors group to see if they were willing to use their talents and community influence to explore and promote discussion concerning sexually transmitted infections among seniors.

"The idea behind the project is that people are having sex after 65. It’s a fact. So we are trying to come up with ways to open that conversation, so it’s more normalized and more accessible," she said. Nicole shared that amongst seniors, HIV cases have grown from 6% to 13% and in 2006, 15% of HIV infections were in people 51-60, and 5% of those were actually over 60 years of age. Adding to the problem is that seniors and often caregivers don’t really want to engage in discussions about sex.  For some seniors, there are hidden issues such as body image or a feeling that sexual activity has passed them by, and for some caregivers the challenge of accepting sex as a normal part of life regardless of age.

The Centre is partnering with the Seniors Action Group to develop a series of monologues written and performed by seniors, which will be presented in May and June.

I really want to recognize George Hopkins, Mariette Sluyter, Nicole Hergert, the Seniors Action Alliance, and the various community agencies that are working together to advance the quality of life of Elders and for their work in bridging the gap between the generations. Clearly, there is plenty of evidence in the work of these community groups to demonstrate the Eldering Principles in promoting intergenerational collaboration.  What a privilege it was for me to explore, first-hand, Wisdom in Action.

© 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.