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Another Well by Colin Angwin

A few years ago, some sparky copywriter came up with use of the word “silver” as a euphonious euphemism for “elderly”, which is itself a euphemism for “aged”.   The usage has become widespread and a week ago last Sunday I attended a session on Creative Writing given as part of a series of events for oldies grouped under the title of “Silver Sunday”.

 

The tutor, Robert, mentioned a piece by one of his students who came from Eastern Europe, I think, and who recalled that in her childhood she had had to break the ice on the well in order to draw water.   Others from warmer climates had indeed had to use wells for water supplies, but not through the ice.

 

This reminded me of a well I came across as a child.   I must have been about 7 or 8 and I was with my parents in some remote part of India.   One day, as I wandered about the countryside, I saw a magnificent well-head.   It consisted of a huge horizontal wheel linked by a system of large cogs to an equally huge vertical wheel.   This type of irrigation apparatus was and probably still is widespread in Asia and the Middle East and I imagine it has been for centuries.

 

My eye was caught by the third component of the structure, a rope festooned with earthenware pots at regular intervals and looped loosely round the vertical wheel so that part of it trailed down into the well beneath.   An ox was lashed to the horizontal wheel and rotated it by plodding round in a never-ending circle.   This made the vertical wheel rotate in its turn, so that the pots came up out of the well filled with water which, as they passed the apex of their circuit, was tipped into a channel leading to the fields to be irrigated.

 

I picked up a stone and threw it at one of the pots which shattered satisfyingly, shedding its contents onto the dry earth.   I repeated the act with another stone, another pot.   My memory is that I hit a pot with every stone I threw, but my later experience on the cricket field showed that my hand and eye coordination is very shaky so that is unlikely.   It is, however, true that by the time I had finished my little game every pot was broken, and I headed for home well pleased with myself.

 

I dawdled on the way, so that the owner of the well got there well before me and was pouring out the story to my father, who took decisive action.   He paid the man for the damage done, more than generously I have no doubt, and he took a slipper to me, also quite generously.   This is the only beating that I remember his giving me.   I also remember his clear explanation of what the beating was for.   It was not for breaking the pots.   It was for not considering the effects of my action on the farmer, whose whole livelihood depended on the irrigation system I had destroyed.

 

Looking back on the episode many decades later, I also draw two other possibly unfashionable conclusions.   First, corporal punishment can be good – this slippering certainly impressed the desired lesson on me and did not in the least diminish my love and respect for my father.   Secondly, you could be one of the colonial rulers and still behave thoughtfully and fairly to the ruled.

 

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Age by Kate Simpson

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Thank you to Open Age member Kate Simpson for sharing her wonderful, lively piece of writing about ageing…

How do you count age? Is it by years, memories or months. I personally measure it by moments.

These can be happy, sad, angry, vengeful, laughable or just plain mad. If I were to choose I would measure my life in mad moments.

Mad conjures up so many things that have happened in my life. From being in an asylum to laughing myself almost to death. It also encompasses my youth when craziness was almost a necessity, clubbing wearing unsuitable clothes, listening to unsuitable music and reading unsuitable literature ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ for example.

Moments cannot be measured by time. We have brief moments, long moments, and wishful moments.

As I grow older my wishful moments become a bucket list of what I can and want to do in the here and now. I fully intend to grow old disgracefully. In the meantime of course I feel I’m still 21

To hell with my aches and pains. My wheelchair and the host of medical equipment in my home. I’ve had moments when my electric hoist has been fun to swing on (the carers horror adding to my glee!)

My wheelchair used as a racer (with the help of my friends). I’ve been to Ibiza, USA and fully intend to travel more.

I shall listen to unsuitable music, wear unsuitable clothes, and read what I want to. I can act like a child, a teenager or adult. I don’t care and will be deaf to the frowns and murmurings of others.

My own deafness is incredibly useful. Without my hearing aids I sleep peacefully at night. If I get bored of conversation out they come.

I have already crossed two things off my Bucket List. Swimming with Dolphins and meeting Mickey Mouse. I also met Pooh Bear and Tigger and thoroughly enjoyed it with childish glee. Some friends could not understand this second item on my list.

No 3? I have several ideas but at my age I have plenty of time. Don’t I?

Age is therefore to each and own. Never judge a book by its cover. Underneath we may be surprised. The child may have the wisdom of an adult. The teenager may be ‘right not wrong’ and behind the wrinkles a lifetime of laughter. I find it sad when people resort to the surgeons knife to restore or maintain their beauty. They live behind a literal mask imprisoned a slave to vanity.

I have had the privilege of being at the bedside of many in their dying moments. I have watched as their pain becomes peace. And how then their face loses its lines and natural beauty is restored.

They say ‘Age is a Many Splendid Thing’ and in my measured moments I smile and agree.

© Kate Simpson

I Prescribe TV

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I Prescribe TV

If you want to see a doctor – simply turn on the TV

For every other programme’s medical, I guarantee.

We’ve Doctors, Medics, House, ER and also Holby City,

Embarassing Bodies, A & E, and also Casualty.

There’s Doctor Hilary, Doctor Chris, and Doctor Pixie too,

Steer clear of Gillian McKeith – obsessed with number two!

There’s Doctor Phibes, who loved his spouse, and Docs Evil, and No,

The soaps have medicine in them too, though not in every show.

Sherlock had Doctor Watson, who was always at his side,

And Doctor Henry Jekyll, who turned into Edward Hyde.

A TV diagnosis is the fastest you can get,

Even on a Zoo Visit, you are sure to see a Vet.

Of course my favourite medic has a surgery that’s blue.

I wish he was my GP – well – who else but Doctor Who!

© Pandora Varrakalion

Collage & Storytelling

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As part of London Creativity & Wellbeing Week 2015 here at Open Age we organised a number of exciting events and workshops including an exhibition with performances at Paddington Arts inspired by fairy tales, storytelling, folklore and all things magical!

These wonderful collages were made by members of Open Age Create Expectations art class led by myself Hester Jones at Olive House – a Housing and Care 21 sheltered housing – in Fulham perched on the River Thames. The collages were also exhibited at our Paddington Arts Once Upon a Time showcase in June with lots of brilliant feedback from visitors!

The accompanying stories were made collaboratively in a group storytelling workshop at Olive House. Many of the members in this group are living with dementia.

In our weekly class Create Expecations we certainly experiment with lots of different mediums, inspired by many different artists and writers. We have dabbled in Pop Art, Impressionism, Poor Art, papier mâché, decoupage, candle making, poetry by William Blake, photography, and storytelling.. the list is endless! We hope you enjoy these collages and stories as much as our members enjoyed making them!

“I’m Watching You”

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There was a big eagle in Grandma’s flat, a singing bird, a hawk. “If I was a blackbird” was her favorite song. There was a picture of flowers on the wall with a lampshade dangling down. She was just watching her lunch – the little mouse. Suddenly the big bird decided she didn’t want lunch and instead had a whisky on mice!

“Mary Had A Little Lamb”

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Once upon a time I was expecting a baby and her name was baby Sheila. She was a professional dressmaker and she made suits, and they were well-made. She also made evening wear for ladies. She knitted jumpers from the sheep’s wool too. She made lovely coats and lovely shoes to match.

“A lady called Joan”

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There was a lady called Joan. She was in her living room admiring her collection of nick-nacks. She was out of the bathroom, suddenly, a lion came and broke all the crockery.

“Don’t worry love, I’m not after you, I’m not hungry.”

“Motherly Love”

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Once upon a time there was a panda holding a baby in bed (the only two people to vote for the liberal democrats in the general election in Scotland)

“Hush baby, mummy’s coming now to feed you… some bamboo!”

“The Nanny Goat”

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There was a nanny goat. The nanny goat lived in a field where he used to play chasing the birds and butterflies around in the fields. There was a polar bear and a brown bear. The Queen of Hearts lived in the red hat and the King of Spades lived in the black hat. One day the brown bear decided to go for a walk in the forest, he saw a great big sheep with horns. Then came a lion and butt the sheep with his great big horns. Then, the sheep had a baby! A young lamb.

“Down Under”

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Once upon a time when I was in Australia in the outback I was pleased to see animals hopping about. The meerkats, the kangaroos, and lovely birds, parakeets, wallabies, snakes as well. The meerkats were walking on the sand.

“Oh what a beautiful doll!” “Oh what handsome creatures the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they are all looking at the sea. They were all running about chasing the butterflies and the sheep and all the native animals.

With special thanks to Haynesh Johannes the activity coordinator at Olive House for all her kind support.

The report Creative Homes by the Baring Foundation demonstrates how the arts can contribute to the quality of life of people in residential care. Open Age is delighted to be a member of Age Action Alliance Creative Working Group:

“A vibrant group of representatives from national to grassroots organisations across a wide range of arts activities with interests in active to the most frail and vulnerable people. These different perspectives allow for new innovative ideas to emerge.

We could be a “hot-house” for new ideas and ways of working to make creative arts mainstream for all. This work could bring positive benefits to older people at whatever stage in their life-course; for policy and decision-makers; organisations providing care services and arts opportunities; as well as families, carers and arts practitioners. The impact could affect neighbourhoods and have regional and national implications.”

Long Lost Lady to Inspire International Art Project

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Open Age art & photography tutor and coordinator of Creative Writing Phone Groups for the housebound – Hester Jones (me!) – is organising an art event Handkind at Olive House, London, to celebrate Rebirth-Day! An international event to help create responsible social transformation – in short, a better world.

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Our collective action is to encourage arts participation for people living with dementia globally as studies and practice demonstrate the arts help improve wellbeing for older people, and with dementia in particular.  Handkind is related to an artist residency I did in October 2014 in Italy at the Michaelangelo Pistoletto foundation UNIDEE Cittadellarte.

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The Rebirth-Day event takes place on the 21st December each year – founded by Pistoletto. In 2015 I will organise a dementia art exchange between older people in Italy and UK. The project will incorporate Creative Writing & Storytelling, Photography, Film, Painting, Music and much more! We will be incorporating Kate Simpson’s wonderful piece of writing Long Lost Lady about ageing, reflecting and looking in the mirror – into the project. Pistoletto is famous for his ‘mirror’ works to which Handkind is also inspired by as well as Arte Povera – the Italian art movement.

Check out all the other Rebirth-Day events taking part across the world – Open Age is on the map!

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If you know anyone with dementia (a friend, family, OA member, neighbour, etc.) spend time with them to read a poem, a story, look at a photo, paint a picture, listen to their favourite music, visit a gallery together… even if this person is not able to verbally communicate, or seems like they are not responding, you will have much more impact than a lot of us realize. It has been demonstrated that by participating in the arts, there is also relief from confusion and anxiety. Above all, be patient, kind and become a Dementia Friend too if you live in the UK.

Museums such as the Royal Academy in London support people with dementia and the arts in events such as Coffee and Conversation. In the USA Meet Me at Moma is a similar initiative run by the Museum of Modern Art New York – making art accessible to people with dementia.

You can follow the event and updates on the Rebirth-Day Event Facebook page and the Open Age Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

The Long-Term Health Benefits of Participating in the Arts

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Here is a very interesting blog with links to academic research that looks at the long-term health benefits of participating in the arts – right click on the top right hand box to access the various researches:

An international evidence base.

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