Making age matter in the arts

Maria Roberts
Maria Roberts

So often we ask arts organisations ‘What are you doing to engage young people?’ We frequently look to technology and all its associated formats when building our expectations of the future. Yet, whilst we are rapidly devising plans to capture the audiences of tomorrow’s world, I often find myself wondering who we might be leaving behind.

Why do we mute the conversation on senior citizens so easily, yet engage so enthusiastically in youth development schemes? Age is private, so it seems, whilst youth is publicly celebrated.

We all know that the older generation enjoy attending arts events just as much as anyone else. If they have the luxury of time and money to buy tickets, why is serving an older audience perceived so negatively by the media?

How can performing to an audience of predominantly senior citizens – “the grey wave” – be considered such a disaster?

Classical music, in particular, gets a tough rap for it’s older audiences, whilst theatre and opera are not far behind.

In our special feature on ageing in the September edition of IAM we speak to a range of companies that each take a slightly different approach to gerontology. We’d love to hear your thoughts so get in touch with us on twitter @IntArtsManager.

This issue we interviewed Australia’s ILBIJERRI, for whom respect for Elders and intergenerational practice is a culturally important issue, a US orchestra formed as a safe space for senior players with no youngsters in sight, and report on a group of British musicians performing in care homes. Plus there’s some insightful advice from Alzheimer’s Society.

Age matters. It certainly matters to us here at IAM. If there is one thing we can be certain of, it’s that come morning (should we still be breathing) we’ll all be ever so slightly older than we are today.

When that happens, I’d like to be assured I’m going to be appreciated with as much gusto as the 23 year-old sitting next to me in the auditorium.

Maria Roberts