“Personally, I think inter-generationality is the key,” he ponders. “You can see how the seniors really, really enjoy [working with] the young people, because of the energy, the ideas, the challenges the university students provide. What is really curious is why the students really like the seniors, because they come back—they do a course with me, and then they come back as volunteers [with the GeriActors]. So why do they do it? Because there is a mystery, because they find an ease and a fascination with the seniors.”
With that in mind, the festival’s ability to empower comes in offering the arts across the age spectrum: it simply anchors itself around the older among us, celebrates their abilities, and reaches back from there. Right from its inaugural run in 2008, the annual festival’s centred itself around workshops and performances, and all weekend long, too, is the Festival of Edmonton Seniors Theatre, a fest within a fest: Friday sees an aptly-titled Extravaganza, of musicians, storytellers, dancers, actors and more; Saturday offers a creative movement workshop with choreographer Amber Borotsik, as well as an introductory acting workshop led by Amanda Bergen, and an evening of Poetry and storytelling, as well as a Sunday of writing and visual art techniques. Light refreshments, tea and coffee, are omnipresent throughout Creative Age—”We have tremendous coffee breaks,” Barnet stresses.
Beyond Edmonton, exploring the idea of creative aging is ongoing and worldwide. Barnet points to likeminded groups in London, New York, Ireland and Wales. He notes a former student of his has spun off a sister group to the GeriActors in India. And, for Edmonton’s part, Barnet notes the GeriActors to be at the heart of an almost-finished study on the connections between theatre and healthy aging.
“The intention here is long term,” Barnet says. “What can we do, what can we organize, what can we sponsor, what can we lobby for, which will increase the opportunities for choice for seniors, right across the city.”
Until Sun, Jun 8
schedule at creativeageedmonton.ca