‘Armchair Adventures’ is inspired by older peoples’ passions, interests and experience. Everyone’s experience has been clouded by coronavirus for months now and most people have missed out on a proper holiday this year. ‘Armchair Adventures’ is our attempt at helping people use their imaginations to escape and connect. Escape from the physical confines of the places where they live, but also from feelings of unwanted isolation. Connect by finding innovate ways to share their imaginations with others, particularly children, at a time when interacting with other generations is fraught.
We have made the first few podcast episodes in collaboration with the wonderful Hearts and Minds group. They are a company of over 55s based in Tameside that meet up every week to create and perform original musical theatre for children (usually at Guide Bridge Theatre, now on Zoom!) During development sessions, the group discussed their experiences during this time. Pat talked about missing her dance classes and how her physical health has degraded since lockdown began. “I’ve got more aches and pains now I’m not doing nothing” Pat told us. Linda spoke about how she was missing her long walks in the countryside and the impact this was having on her mental health. Like Linda, many of the group have careering responsibilities, often with their own partners, and although they could personally ‘get-out-and-about’ more in the ‘real world’, they are scared to catch and pass on the virus to their loved ones. This is a terrible burden to bear, but one they do gladly. Lynda, “with a Y”, started work as a carer just 2 weeks before lockdown began, “it has been a godsend,” she said. “It’s given me a purpose”. Ronny (aged 86) talked about missing being “down the club” with the lads with a pint of “best” in his hand. “Having a laugh with your mates is very important,” he told us.
Socialising with friends and family is the most profound thing missing from the lives of the older people involved in Armchair Adventures. “I just miss giving my family a hug,” said Rita. “We had to drop my nephews 30th birthday present on the drive and then walk away,” said Carla. “I was in tears waving at him from our car… he was stood there all grown up with his little family. We’ve never even met the baby.” I’m amazed at how strong the older people I talk to are. I’m amazed by their ability to laugh at themselves and the situation. I’m amazed by how they are able to make the best of it and concentrate on what they can do, not what they can’t. “We have virtual lunches with our granddaughter,” said Baz, “sometimes she offers me a fork full of her dinner… only a small one mind!” Baz laughs. Jean, Baz’s wife, has started drawing after 15 years of not putting pen to paper. Her latest masterpiece is a picture of her 3-year old granddaughter. “When I’m drawing her, I feel close to her,” Jean revealed. “It’s the next best thing to wrapping my arms around her”.
We have helped the Hearts and Minds group use their experiences as inspiration for ‘Armchair Adventures’. We have also worked alongside them to create stories within those adventures, that help other people build resilience to these types of experiences. I think it is fair to say, that the group are building resilience too. As well as Hearts and Minds, we are also beginning to reach out to other groups of older people to collaborate with. In addition to this, as part of the launch of Armchair Adventures podcast series on the 12th November, we have produced an activity pack aimed at helping older people create and share their own Armchair Adventures. This is available to download from Made By Mortals website at a pay-what-you-want rate. We are currently fundraising for physical packs (which include a preloaded Mp3 player) to be distributed to digitally excluded older people. We are also working with partners, to ensure the packs and supporting audio can be translated into different languages and made as accessible as possible for people with access needs. Our main aim with this project is to combat loneliness and social isolation through creativity and imagination. As part of this, we are trying to build a community around the project and find ways to be as inclusive and accessible as we possibly can be.
Let the #ArmchairAdventures begin…