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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsHello. My name is Professor Des O'Neill, a geriatrician and cultural gerontologist at Trinity College, Dublin. And we met earlier in the module on the longevity dividend. This module engages with aesthetics and ageing. One of the aspects of life which we tend to take for granted in the earlier stages of life is that of arts, leisure, and culture.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsWhether using our iPad, going to the cinema, or playing chess, we rarely think about the importance of these aspects of our life, yet because we know that in later life, it is a time when you might have more difficulty either accessing or engaging with these aspects of life, we are increasingly aware that not having access to these facets of what makes us human can be harmful to our sense of wellbeing and health. There are many reasons why arts, leisure, and culture matter. From the earliest times, philosophers have recognised that aesthetics-- that part of our being relating to arts and culture-- is a defining element of our nature.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsIn addition, the importance of play as a keystone of human existence was teased out by the philosopher Huizinga in the 1930s, redefining us as from homo sapiens to Homo Ludens, the "Playing Man." This was exemplified in health care settings in an important study which showed that people with stroke have a much improved recovery if they have access to their five favourite CDs. So now is the time to rethink and plan for the time in your life when you may have more difficulty in accessing your usual aesthetic and leisure pursuits, and in particular to rethink work-life balance in terms of arts, culture, and leisure.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsHad you thought of restarting that membership of a tennis club, wondered about a walking club, joining a book club, or singing in a local choir? Clearly, all of these have added social benefit, but the elements of play and pleasure are equally important. In addition, perhaps you might rethink your engagement with other elements of culture and leisure, from arts gallery to attending sports events. One slight caution in the area is the overemphasis by some enthusiasts in the field that everyone should be creative in terms of what is known as the participatory arts-- for example, drawing, painting, dancing, or singing.

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 secondsWhile clearly later life is an opportunity to take on a new area of activity in culture and leisure, for most of us, the majority of our arts and culture engagement is receptive, which does not mean passive. Reading, listening to music, film, and television are both enjoyable and enriching choices which allow us to join in the broader and wider movements with those around us and are no less important than the creative arts.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 secondsFinally, should you or your loved ones find yourself in a situation whereby your access to your usual cultural supports are limited, for example through being homebound or living in a nursing home, you or those who care for you should find ways to provide that which you enjoy and treasure in conjunction with those providing care. It is important not to be cowed by institutional settings; to provide usual supports of books, music, and film; and to explore the possibility for activities and opportunities in ways that are suited to your environment. I would strongly recommend considering engaging with arts and music therapists in the event of any significant disability.

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 secondsLife is about living, and it is important that late life, when we are out of the peak of our abilities to make sense of life, is a time when we can join with others in these important aspects of life-course review, either through enjoying arts and culture or through creativity. So as a closing thought, now is the time for you to ask yourself the question, have I paid enough attention to arts, culture, and leisure in my life, and can I now rethink and plan for re-engaging or fresh starts in arts, culture, and leisure? As the African proverb goes, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second-best time is now."

Aesthetics and ageing

In this video, we explore an aspect of life that we take for granted in the earlier stages of life – arts, leisure and culture. We are increasingly aware that not having access to these is harmful to our wellbeing and health (NTDU, 2011).

It is very important to maintain these important aspects of human existence into later life when you might have more difficulty either accessing or engaging with them due to health, physical or financial constraints (Moss and O’Neill, 2014).

So, now is the time to rethink and plan for the time in your life when you may have more difficulty in accessing your usual aesthetic and leisure pursuits, and in particular, to rethink work-life balance in terms of arts, culture and leisure.

  • Have you thought about joining a tennis club, a walking club, a book club or a local choir? If you have let memberships in some groups lapse, consider restarting them.
  • In addition, perhaps you might rethink your engagement with other elements of culture and leisure, from arts galleries to attending sports.

  • How might you engage with arts, leisure and culture, should you find yourself housebound or in a nursing home in later life?

Desmond O’Neill Consultant Physician in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine at Tallaght Hospital and Professor in Geriatric Medicine at Trinity College Dublin.

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This video is from the free online course:

Strategies for Successful Ageing

Trinity College Dublin

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