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Showcasing the power of art to combat social isolation

May 28, 2019  · 2 min read

When it comes to age-related policy, it has been shown how imperative it is to include older adults in helping shape and influence existing measures that are put in place by high level governmental bodies. Civil society’s voice can be strong, especially when there is a collective and united front. This bottom-up approach to policy change has been at the core of the Global Network of  Age-friendly Cities and Communities, established by the WHO in 2010, whose goal is to create and foster environments in which healthy ageing can be achieved for all.


IFA expert member Dr Ruth Finkelstein has been leading the way for Age-friendly cities and communities.  She was an integral part of the award-winning ‘Age-Friendly New York City Initiative’. Dr Finkelstein brings over 3 decades of experience to policy planning and believes strongly in the power of community engagement.



A great example of the power of community engagement can be seen In California, where a group of seniors - whom like many - experienced the impact of social isolation and decided to take action. The idea was to display art made my local members of the community that related to social isolation, to creatively express the pain that accompanies this prevalent phenomenon. The numbers speak for themselves:


"Lonely adults over 60 have been shown to have a 45% higher risk of death compared to more socially connected peers, and a 59% higher risk of mental and physical decline."


Combatting social isolation can be seen as step towards achieving healthy ageing. What started off as an exhibition about social isolation, helped to combat social isolation itself.  “At one of the early [committee] meetings, these women were sitting together, and it came up that they were all recently widowed,” said Ashley Holmes, the museum’s marketing manager. “They became really close, because it was helpful for them to talk to others going through the same thing. One of them actually even did artwork for the exhibit about her experience.”


The planning committee attracted close to 200 members, all seniors in the community. Those interested in the exhibit can visit the display until January 2020.

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