Ageing as Adventure: Reimagining Later Life

The format for the Ron Gray Conference was changed from previous years. It was an all-day meeting and was held at Emmanuel College, where Ron Gray was a fellow, as well as being a U3AC lecturer. We were very lucky to have Professor Bill Randall, Emeritus Professor of Gerontology, from St Thomas University, Canada, join us as he was a visiting fellow at Emmanuel College. Bill put together a day of talks and workshops on the subject of narrative gerontology.

Bill gave the opening talk on exploring the insights into our lives, our selves, and our relationships that can be accessed by reflecting on fables, fairy tales, and other little stories, that we first encountered as children but that, for various reasons, have stayed in our minds ever since. Such stories allow us to frame our lives and draw comparisons from.

The members then rotated around three workshops. Oddgeir Synnes,  Professor of Health Humanities, VID Specialized University, Oslo, Norway, gave us a workshop as an introduction to creative writing in later life based on the speaker’s vast experience from giving courses in creative writing for older adults in various settings. The workshop aimed to engage members through various exercises of creative writing to give an increased understanding of what the method might have to offer.

Karen Skerrett, Clinical psychologist, from University of Chicago and Northwestern University showed how telling stories shape the way we see and react to the world. While some life stories promote a positive, fulfilling life, others undermine well-being. Creating a better story for life, one characterized by a sense of purpose, meaning, caring relationships with others, and wisdom lead to a better quality of life.

David Amigoni, Professor of Victorian Literature and Director of Keele Institute of Social Inclusion, Keele University, was joined by Brenda Hennessey, Jacky Carter, and Steve Bambury from Ages and Stages Theatre Company based at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme. The workshop encouraged members to use theatrical techniques to explore body and spoken languages. The workshop had everyone working collectively ‘in the round’ (in a circle) and in breakout groups. The aim was to stimulate members’ creativity, mental flexibility and thinking skills by using improvisation scenarios.

The day finished with a panel discussion where presenters took questions from the floor.

I would like to thank Bill and his colleagues for presenting on the day. Thanks to Emmanuel College for hosting us, and thanks to all those members who joined us.

Mark Sanderson

U3AC Council Member and Conference organiser




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