Reflections of Age/ncy at Tate Modern

Last month we headed to Tate Modern to take part in Age/ncy: Art, Ageing and Transition, an intergenerational arts display organised by Flourishing Lives. Our Age Allies project was featured as part of a diverse range of installations, performances, and workshops to explore and celebrate the ageing experience, from musical performances and physical theatre right through to parkour, stand-up comedy and even circus skills.

The event was a huge success, with nearly 3,000 people attending over the course of the weekend. This included 588 people who came along to the Tate Late display “Age/ncy: Art, Ageing, and LGBTQ+ stories” on the Friday night – a total which broke Tate Exchange records!

‘Loved the art discussion. I love art but don’t always feel like I can say something/have something to contribute but the facilitator was so engaged/engaging. What a pleasure.’

– Feedback from an Age/ncy attendee

Armed with a dedicated group of volunteers, our Age Allies stall offered the chance for members of the public to reflect on what they’d witnessed at Age/ncy and to explore their assumptions and understanding of the ageing process. This is a frequent feature of our Age Allies workshops, which have provided free age-awareness training to organisations and businesses across London over the last two years. Attendees were asked to participate in our “game” titled Continuum, in which they would make assumptions of our four Age Allies based only on their portrait. Following this, they then had the opportunity to meet said Age Ally to find out whether their assumptions were correct. This is a gentle, yet effective, way to get members of the public thinking about the unconscious biases they hold towards other people, especially when it comes to age. It was also a chance for our Age Allies to surprise those who participated in our game by revealing the many different hobbies, skills, and stories they have. You can find our more about Continuum in our earlier blog here.

Some reflections with our Age Ally Chris.

This was reinforced by the Age/ncy display as a whole, which showcased the myriad artistic opportunities that are available in later life and to prove that age is just a number. Considering a recent report from the RSPH found that almost a third of the public (30%) believe “being lonely is just something that happens when people get old”, it’s vitally important to showcase the many different ways that older people can, and do, continue to use art to celebrate a profound sense of identity, community and independence.

“What a lovely day!  I really enjoyed it and am full of admiration for all the effort that went into preparing all the equipment. Lots of thoughtful things to keep us volunteers happy.   Thank you!”

– Feedback from one of our volunteers

The four exercises that comprised Continuum have produced a whole host of different responses from attendees and it is now our job to explore the information provided to see how people’s attitudes towards age and ageing evolved over the course of the day. This will help us to tailor our methods for combating ageism even more effectively in the future. One clear feature was the frequent assumption that our Age Allies partook in static and stereotypical activities rather than the range of dynamic and diverse hobbies they actually have.

Overall the weekend was a huge success, even if we were all exhausted by Sunday evening! We’d like to give a massive thank you to everyone who attended and came to speak to us for engaging with the game in good spirits, it was fascinating to hear all of your insights into age and ageing. Thank you as well to all of our volunteers who kept things running smoothly, especially our four Age Allies, Chris, Frances, Jackie, and Vanda all of whom spoke for hours to many different attendees and took all their assumptions with good humour! Finally our thanks goes to Flourishing Lives and Tate Exchange for having us along at such an enjoyable and inspiring event!

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George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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