As data shows that more people are growing older without the support of family members living nearby, a play is being performed in Newcastle which explores questions and issues relating to ageing, inspired by real stories and experiences.
Doorbells focuses on the story of Kathleen as she faces decisions about where she will live and how her life will change as she grows older.
Claire Webster Saaremets, Artistic Director from Skimstone Arts, who has created and produced the play, said: “Doorbells is playful and imaginative but at the same time it prompts the audience to think about the very real challenges we all face as we grow older, particularly as more people are now ageing without children.
“Behind our doorbells and front doors we’re all thinking about our own futures – what will we be able to afford? How will our social lives change? And what will our homes be like?
“In the play we see Kathleen escape from reality into a world of books and stories and we explore some of the decisions she faces in her life in a humorous and sensitive way. I hope the performance encourages people to talk more openly about some of the difficult decisions we all have to make about our lives.”
Findings from the Institute of Public Policy Research show that, in 2012, there were 1.2 million people aged over 65 without adult children, and estimates show that by 2030 this will rise to 2 million people, many of whom will not have support from immediate family*.
Doorbells has been commissioned by Care & Repair England and the Elders Council of Newcastle, supported by Northumbria University. The performance will be followed by a post-show conversation where audience members can share their thoughts on the topics of living as we age and ageing without children.
Cathy Bailey, Associate Professor in Ageing at Northumbria University, who supported the research that directly inspired the content for Doorbells, said: “The recent Housing for Older People report** suggests that we need to ‘age proof’ new homes. We also need to ‘age proof’ ourselves and society. There is still much to do, to get us all planning for later life across the life course and to change ageist attitudes broadly. We need a national conversation and consultation with people of all ages and from all backgrounds, to consider how we may plan for our future lives.”
Maureen Tinsley, Chair, Elders Council of Newcastle, said: “We know that some of us end up in housing which is no longer suited to our needs at a time when we no longer have the energy to make the change. This becomes so much more difficult for those of us who do not have children close by to help us through the process. By having conversations, we start to think through the decisions we might make and to seek the practical help and support to enable us to follow them through. ‘Doorbells’ is our way of starting the conversation.”
The performance is a revised version of an earlier project, called Doorbells of Delight, which was originally performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015.
A one-off performance of Doorbells will take place on Thursday 22 March at 6pm at B&D Studios in Newcastle city centre. Tickets are free and can be booked online or by calling (0191) 235 9905.
*The Institute of Public Policy Research says that in 2012 there were 1.2 million people aged over 65 without adult children and estimates that by 2030, this will rise to approximately 2 million. Some 230,000 will be in need of more than 20 hours’ care a week, and many will not have immediate family support (https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/news/ageing-without-children ; quoted in Ageing without Children Survey 2015).
** Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee’s Report on Housing for Older People (CLG 2018).