MaD Theatre Company is a charitable organisation, which provides drama workshops for young people and adults living in Greater Manchester.
Over a year ago, MaD Theatre Company facilitated drama sessions for sheltered housing residents in Harpurhey, an area of North Manchester experiencing considerable socio-economic disadvantage. Through this, they identified the need for a group that focusses on local people over the age of 50, and set up a new, two-year project called Drama for Baby Boomers with funding from People’s Health Trust.
According to Age UK, 1.4 million people aged 50+ living in England are socially isolated and often feel alone. Older people who experience social isolation are likely to experience other additional physical and mental health issues, leading to a 25% reduction in life expectancy.
Jill Hughes, Director at MaD Theatre Company, said: “Using drama as a creative medium, the project supports members to develop a sense of belonging in their community and to raise awareness of issues that are important to them.”
“Project members take part in weekly drama workshops and improvisation classes, as well as devising, writing and performing in original plays. The plays are performed at numerous professional theatres around Greater Manchester such as The Lowry Theatre.”
Within six months of starting, the group had gained significant interest from local people. Jill explained: “Members used the local community radio to spread information about the group’s activities and how to join. A Steering Group was established too including ten older people living locally, who were trained in different aspects of drama management.”
Project member Josie said: “The project is really important to me as I really enjoy acting and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Now, at the age of 71, I have been able to perform at The Lowry which is truly a dream come true! It’s a lot of fun and I’ve made some great friends here too.”
Members have gained valuable skills from the project, not just in performing arts but also in communications, customer service and marketing. Recent feedback revealed that over 80% of members feel more confident to take the lead and ownership of activities since joining. Jill said: “Members of the group have built strong social connections with others over the last year and they regularly choose to meet outside of the project for nights out and theatre trips.”
“Some members are now also undertaking consultant roles to help young people use drama to take control of their mental health and wellbeing. The regular group performances also enable project members to celebrate their achievements with family and friends. They say it helps them take their mind off everyday problems and gives them a sense of pride.”
The project has been funded by the Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery in the North West.
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 Age UK (2018b). Later Life in the United Kingdom: April 2018. <https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/later_life_uk_> Accessed: 14.10.2019
 Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237.