I am part of a delegation of 5 UK arts professional who run innovative initiatives relating to ageing society including Abid Hussain (Director, Diversity at Arts Council England), Catherine Cassidy (Director of Engagement at Scottish Ballet), Jane Findlay (Head of Learning at Dulwich Picture Gallery) and Julian West (Head of Open Academy at Royal Academy of Music).
I’m incredibly excited and feel fortunate to be included in such a fantastic opportunity. The week-long programme will include meetings with representatives of cultural, health and welfare sectors in Japan, with the aim to gain a deeper understanding of Japan's approach to an ageing society and discuss possible future collaborations. Alongside the programme of visits and meetings, I will give a presentation about the work of the Royal Exchange and our Elders Company at public forums in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Japan has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world (85 years for women and 80 for men). This statistic is in the context of a birth rate amongst the lowest in the world. Japan has an ageing population. Many countries are looking to Japan as a window on their own future societies.
While dementia is not inevitable or restricted to the young, ageing is a risk factor and as Japan has the highest proportion of older adults anywhere in the world (one in four of the country is over 65 as compared to around one in six in the UK), with it comes a greater number of people living with Dementia. Japan is already confronting this challenge through dementia friendly communities similar to the work being undertaken in the UK. I hope to discover more about this and other arts projects in Japan that are supporting older people and those living with dementia to live well and age creatively.
In 2015 a partnership between the Baring Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK, supported British Council Japan to organise a study tour to Japan involving a delegation of 16 UK arts professionals (arts organizations, research bodies and funding bodies) with expertise of working with older people through the arts to meet counterparts in Japan.
For further information about this trip visit The British Council Website
It’s three years on now and Tokyo is gearing up for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Cultural Olympiad promises a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the culture of Japan too on the international stage and I am sure innovative ageing projects will form part of this.
I’m excited to learn more, soak up the atmosphere, culture and spirit of a place I’ve not travelled to before. The British Council Japan have already promised an inspiring visit with the opportunity to see projects in action and meet a range of practitioners. It will be wonderful to learn more about international approaches to collaborative working and creative ageing as well as share what we are doing here.
I hope to form lasting international partnerships with a view to continuing professional relationships and future exchanges. It would be wonderful to welcome Japanese artist to the UK to work with our Elders Company and perhaps, dare I say it for our Elders Company to visit Japan.
On my return I will reflect again on the trip and my learning and we will publish that here on our website.
I have just finished making MOMENTS THAT CHANGED OUR WORLD (which is now touring community venues in Greater Manchester) with the Elders Company and my head is buzzing with creative ideas about the power of art to enrich and change lives. I am reminded of the closing lines of the play: Tomorrow I will!
I am excited for what tomorrow brings.