Tag Archives: Seniors in Ireland

Bealtaine: Pushing the boat out

Surely May is the most fabulous of all months in the Irish countryside! The snow-white Blackthorn flowers give way to the blossom laden arching branches of the Hawthorn, or May blossom. Often alongside is to be found the vibrant yellow of whins, or gorse, and together they make the most beautiful spectacle in the Irish countryside as they light up miles and miles of hedgerows. The Irish word for May is ‘Bealtaine’ (pronounced Baal-tin-a) which means ‘Bright Fire’. How appropriate then that May was chosen as the month to celebrate the creativity of older age, with the annual month-long Bealtaine Festival taking place across all of Ireland.

Now in its 16th year, the Bealtaine Festival  happens in Art centres, museums, libraries, theatres, Active Retirement Groups, community clubs, care centres, even beaches! Anyplace where the talents of older people, whether professionals or first timers, can be showcased.The ethos is one of celebration, empowerment, fun and confidence-building by the participants, whether as performers, organizers or audiences. In 2010, over 100,000 people participated in the event. This cultural innovation is unrivalled anywhere else in the world, but other countries are establishing similar festivals modelled on Ireland’s success, in Germany, Scotland and Wales, for example.

Bealtaine is spearheaded by the Age & Opportunity organization and part funded by the Arts Council. Age & Opportunity is a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society. The Bealtaine Festival, one of its major initiatives,  concentrates on greater participation by older people in the arts.  With a theme for 2011 of  ‘Push the boat out, whatever the sea’ (a line from the poem ‘At Eighty’, by Edwin Morgan) there are hundreds of events taking place all over Ireland. A Festival Programme is available here .

The Bealtaine Festival was independently evaluated by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at University College Galway. Their study revealed that participation or attendance at events had positive effects on well-being and morale as well as self-esteem and self-confidence. Social connections were improved as new relationships were formed. Over 86% of participants said it improved their quality of life. This research underpins the value to society of a programme for involvement of older people  in the arts, especially as the age profile of our population increases.  It follows that it also underpins the wonderful work being undertaken by Age & Opportunity, work that is worthy of  the support of all of us.

References

Age & Opportunity

Bealtaine Festival

Poem  At Eighty

Evaluation of Bealtaine Festival Report 

Irish Centre for Social Gerontology 

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Filed under Ageism, Ireland, Irish Traditions, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Networking

Speaking Up and Speaking Out!

This is the first in a series of posts about organizations and groups in Ireland actively involved in helping to change the discourse around being older in Ireland. 

GET VOCAL AND BE HEARD

The GET VOCAL initiative is a programme spearheaded by Age & Opportunity and funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. The aim is to encourage older people to speak for themselves in promoting their own concerns and causes. Who knows best about being older than older people themselves?!

Age & Opportunity do this by working with national and local organizations dedicated to social change in relation to the older generation. Networks and groups plan projects that are in turn supported by Age & Opportunity. Sometimes they can even give a small grant to help with the projects.

The stated main goal is to promote networks of older people who can have a say in issues of concern to them, such as transport, health  services, rights for older people, and living in isolation. They are involved in Kerry, Cavan, Leitrim, Wexford, Tolka, Finglas, Wicklow and Meath. They also have a project with members of the Simon community, highlighting the needs of older homeless people around declining health, dying and death. Older members of  The Gay & Lesbian Community also have particular needs and issues with their lives as they age and there is an initiative involving them.

It is important that society as a whole understands the issues that are of concern to older people and hopefully, dear readers, you will one day be older too!

You can read about the Get Vocal Projects here.

Previous post on The Atlantic Philanthropies here.

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Loneliness, Older Generation, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice, Social Networking, Social Policy