“Celebrating the Richness of Ageing”
A reflection on the recent South African Care Forum Festival
by Margie Chapman
This exciting event in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch brought from all over South Africa, and from across the globe, thought leaders alongside engaged and enthusiastic academics and researchers, practitioners, professionals, care partners and community-minded citizens to learn together and to build a sense of community.
Delegates enjoyed an opportunity to share knowledge, tell stories and hear stories from others, as well as network to build new relationships. This Festival was much more than a traditional conference. It truly was a celebration of the richness of ageing.
Delegates from 12 countries gathered (7-10 October) to celebrate ageing through music, art, theatre and a full and vibrant academic programme. The excitement was palpable. The international visitors were able to feel some of the “heart beat” of Africa. The venue was yarnbombed with knitting from residents in 23 organisations around South Africa. They knitted 1066 strips, almost 2kms, in bright colours to celebrate the richness of ageing. Carers were honoured for their being “worldmakers” for those they care for. Oude Libertas hosted the production of “London Road”, a simple and intimate reflection on growing old, loneliness, fragmented families and the healing power of a friendship.
A stimulating academic programme covered difficult to talk about topics such as assisted dying, and sexuality in old age, as well as new perspectives on wellness, dementia, eldering and research. It started some new serious conversations; a new discourse in ageing is evident. It brought together global bodies – IAHSA, CommonAge and Help Age International in a collaborative setting.
What is at the heart of any conference is the people you interact with, face to face in real life, the professional collaborations and friendships that grow from those interactions together with the ideas that are sparked by the formal and informal content commonly experienced. It is often what happens between formal sessions that has a big impact on your practice and the profession. Serendipitous connections were made in sessions too, when people arrived a little early and stayed around afterwards.
I was awed by the energy and collaborative spirit that the Festival engendered. Whatever we do in our own small corners of the earth, impacts the global picture. I was inspired during the Festival to hear from so many who are busy making this world a better place for older people. Delegates were informed and inspired by the stellar line-up of international speakers. There was an air of collegiality and camaraderie which I think makes the aged care sector “stand out”. It manifests in a willingness to share ideas, be open and frank about challenges and opportunities, and to work together for the greater good, with the aim of improving the quality of life for those working in the sector and most of all for those it serves.
The Festival certainly built a platform to move forward and enrich the changing discourse on ageing and care.
To those who weren’t there, start planning to be there in 2016! Connect with the South African Care Forum and join the conversation! Visit the official website or send us an email at: