Poetry helps to reduce isolation for older people

Can poetry help to reduce isolation? In June and July 2020 as part of our art:links programme funded by London Freemasons and The Mercers’ Company, we ran a series of eight creative writing workshops with older people who attend Age UK Havering, Barking and Redbridge. These enabled participants to have fun, build skills, make friends and reduce isolation – and together they produced a moving collection of poetry. We have now compiled this into a book.

The workshops were delivered via Create Live!, our online, interactive project initiative developed to reach participants during the lockdown and beyond.

Can writing poetry help reduce feelings of isolation? Through this creative writing project with our poet Simon Mole, older adults explored a variety of writing techniques and drew on their own memories, experiences and personal objects for creative inspiration. The project enabled them to come together and develop their creative writing skills and self-expression collaboratively, at a time of increased isolation and hardship.

The poems written have been brought together in a book full of profound, funny and lyrical work.

We also had a chance to talk to Kara about how the project introduced her to something new and taught her not to limit herself:

I have not seen my grandchildren for five months. My son was worried about us because we are vulnerable, because of our age and medical conditions. It became too stressful trying to keep that distance. A four-and-a-half-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old wouldn’t understand that.

 At least I know now there are lots of projects around! You don’t have to feel isolated. You just have to make the choice of engaging with other people. Boredom is what you create for yourself and you can choose. You can choose to be bored or choose to be creative.

You can choose to be bored or choose to be creative.

We have been creating poetry. I have not done any creative poetry before. I have enjoyed it very much. I am surprised [by my poetry]. The only literature I did in school was reciting. It was painful, all the reciting, and it didn’t mean anything to me.

Being creative has actually made me put my thinking cap on, to think: what can I write, what can I make beautiful, what can I expand on? I know Simon says you don’t have to rhyme, but suddenly I’m thinking about rhyming and changing my words around. And I think I’ll just do it for the workshop but then I go back to my notebook and I start scribbling and making some changes. Instead of just doing it because I have to, I’m challenging myself. Can I improve it, can I make it fun? Writing so that there’s a bit of humour and laughter in what I write.

Instead of just doing it because I have to, I’m challenging myself. Can I improve it, can I make it fun? Writing so that there’s a bit of humour and laughter in what I write.

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