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Age Collective Executive Summary

September 2013 In partnership with

Supported by


AGE COLLECTIVE In the last year, the Age Collective held five seminars across the UK, each aimed at drawing together a cross-sector audience to discuss how museums could work more effectively with and for older people. The seminars were planned and delivered by four project partners: The British Museum, Glasgow Museums (Glasgow Life), Manchester Museum and National Museums Northern Ireland, and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Age Collective aims:    

Listen to the voices of older adults – explore the needs of diverse communities of older people and the varied provision for meeting these needs across the UK Share good practice – develop ideas to support museums across the UK to better cater for the older people within their localities in partnership with other organisations Develop inter-disciplinary partnerships – encourage social care, health and advice providers for older people to view museums as potential valuable partners Formulate a shared action plan – create a cross-sector network to drive change, with the aim of increasing opportunities and wellbeing for the diverse communities of older people in different parts of the UK Research – improve the work that we do; formulate new ways of collaborating with other sectors and disciplines to locate new areas for collaborative research

191 participants from 171 organisations took part, ranging from older people’s organisations, museum and health and social care representatives, to research institutions. An “Open Space” format enabled participants to lead their own discussions, ensuring participation, relevance and ownership of the process. The resulting reports are available at http://www.ageofcreativity.co.uk/resources/reportspolicy to support further work in this area. Facts and figures: 4 project partners | 5 Age Collective seminars | 191 participants 171 organisations | 68 questions raised | 45 themed discussions Summary of the Age Collective findings: Age should not be a barrier to engagement with or participation in museums. Museums must embrace the opportunities and challenges that an ageing population and its demographic changes bring. Museums must listen to older people. There is a need for future proofing practice – for anticipating the requirements of an ageing population and working with younger audiences to ensure their continued engagement. Older people are far from homogenous and have varied lifestyles, life experiences, viewpoints, requirements and potential routes to museums. A greater understanding of those already actively visiting, those who have been active visitors but require increasing


support to live independently, and non-visitors is required to develop methodologies for quality engagement across this audience. Museums need to innovate and develop heritage opportunities that are beneficial for older participant’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing. Are museums key social spaces for older people to meet and/or be active in? More thought is required around funding activities for older people – who should/can pay for programmes? How can we differentiate? There is a need for advocacy and strategic collaboration. Museums are not viewed by government, health and social sectors, academics or the gatekeepers of groups of older people as strong potential partners. Museums need to open up arts and heritage via digital interfaces for older people Museums must celebrate ageing and the positive contribution of older people to society. Museums have a role to play in dispelling negative perceptions of ageing. There are still significant barriers to effective participation in museums. These include physical access issues; poor communication leading to a lack of awareness about museum offers; inability of museums to reach out to the hardest to reach including older people in care, those not attending older people’s groups; older men, LGBT older people and those with age related illness – particularly dementia. Museums in rural locations often face greater barriers. Museums and their staff also face internal barriers including gaining management level buyin for this work, prioritising staff time and funds, fundraising and concerns regarding whether staff are appropriately trained for reaching the most isolated older people in their communities. There is significant good will within museums to develop their work in this area and to work more effectively with and for their older audiences. Many museum practitioners were particularly concerned about reaching the most isolated older people within their local communities. Museums must understand the importance of sensitive and appropriate use of language when working with older people. The key action points arising from the Age Collective seminars: Partnership and opportunities to share ideas are key  

Museums should develop local networks with local government, health and social care and older people’s organisations to develop joint opportunities for older people Museums should share their contacts and work with each other so as not to duplicate work and signpost older people to other opportunities


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If all museums worked with just one older people’s organisation it would have a huge impact nationally There could be a museum-based cultural offer for care settings and end of life care A digital platform should be created which is a central place for museum practitioners to share their work and develop partnerships

Engagement     

Museums need to provide opportunities for older people’s voices within their work Voluntary and paid opportunities should be revisited by museums to ensure they are relevant, high quality and desirable Older members of staff, volunteers and audiences need to be valued for their knowledge, skills and experience Museums need to explore their role as social spaces for older people’s social networks and wellbeing Programming must consider diverse individuals and groups of older people and work should be future proofed – working with younger audiences to ensure their continued engagement A greater understanding is required of those already actively visiting, those who have been active visitors but require increasing support to live independently, and nonvisitors to develop methodologies for quality engagement across this audience

Training  

Museums could develop training opportunities for those working with and/or caring for older people Museums could work with health and social care organisations to develop training for museum staff working with harder to reach older people

Advocacy  

An Age Collective Manifesto could be developed to summarise the project and raise awareness in museums and outside the sector Museums have a role to play in dispelling negative perceptions of ageing

There is significant good will within museums to develop their work in this area and to work more effectively with and for their older audiences. Many museum practitioners were particularly concerned about reaching the most isolated older people within their local communities. Next steps: A major Age Collective cross-sector conference will take place on 22nd November at the British Museum. Details will be available soon at http://www.ageofcreativity.co.uk/opportunities For more information about the Age Collective programme please contact Harvinder Bahra hbahra@britishmuseum.org or Laura Phillips lkphillips@britishmuseum.org at the British Museum. If you have any questions about the content of the Age Collective reports please contact Antonio Benitez – Age Collective Researcher on a.benitez@edu.salford.ac.uk


Age Collective Executive Summary - full version