“It’s pretty sad, Kathy, when you can’t even afford to volunteer or go to the theatre. You start to lose your soul and spirit.” As Seniors Month comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on the amazing people I’ve met since we started the Creative Age Network.
Since 2013, our generous, talented and fun volunteers have been working to dismantle the stereotype that growing older means entering a period of decline. Our creative aging programs have been our main vehicle for social change – redefining aging and transforming it into an ideal time for fostering personal growth, enhanced well-being and civic engagement – regardless of economic status. Over the years, we realized there are many older adults who are one emergency away from crisis. We noted the number of older, single women who are still working into their 8th and 9th decades because they can’t afford to stop. Our volunteers and facilitators took on a mission to empower local libraries, arts institutions and retirement communities to offer free programs to actively engage otherwise isolated seniors so they can to be active, inspired and creative well into their eighties and nineties. We find meaning and purpose when we can offer lower income seniors an opportunity to explore, perform or exhibit their creative talents. Poverty is cruel and punishing thing. Along with poor health and substandard housing, poverty usually results in social and cultural isolation. Low-income seniors tell us they start feeling invisible and then they quietly disengage and disappear off the radar. Seniors with adequate retirement income can afford to take courses in art, photography, music and theatre. They can attend the stimulating and interesting exhibits, performance and workshops offered by local organizations They can purchase the appropriate clothing to meet friends for coffee or lunch. Those with means can afford the extra cost of transportation and/or parking. Those who live below the poverty threshold can’t afford the extra fares needed to engage and be part of the arts and cultural fabric of our community.
Here in London, Creative Age volunteers are most grateful to The London Public Library and Museum London for helping us take our innovative and free programs to low-income older adults and elders in their neighbourhoods through the library branches. A special thanks to Brian Meehan, the Executive Director of Museum London who has provided unwavering support and encouragement from the start.
Thank you to the London Poverty Research Centre for inviting us to participate in the community blog.
The London Poverty Research Centre @ King’s would like to thank Kathy Smith, Creative Age London, and all the guest bloggers who shared their wisdom, experiences and hopes for the future for senior’s poverty through Seniors’ Month.