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“I Braved Zoom for Love”: 6 Ideas Changing Care, Creativity and Technology

“I Braved Zoom for Love”: 6 Ideas Changing Care, Creativity and Technology

By Tim Senior, 23rd February 2022

In an earlier post we introduced twelve speakers from adult social care – a mixture of insight and provocation from a sector innovating in the face of crisis (e.g. Fix Care for Good). In this short post, we take one step back to ask: what are the bold ideas that speak to a new trajectory for the sector?  

6 disruptive movements in care  

  1. Blending care and creativity: The pressure for new creative and collaborative working practices in care has increased in recent years, with the pandemic only adding to that need. Here the enormous value of ‘co-ownership’ between care staff and artists in the design and delivery of care activities is becoming clear. Pushing beyond ‘business as usual’, this now opens-up questions about what it means for carers to be creative and creatives to take on caring responsibilities. We must now ask how flexibility, training and support can be built into care regimes, but also how artists can be emotionally and pastorally supported in the work they do in the care sector. Being a carer OR an artist may no longer be enough.  
  2. Blending tech and intimacy: covid, too, has driven innovation in how digital technologies and digital-physical objects can bring arts and culture back into people’s lives, particularly those experiencing isolation and inequalities in access. This has highlighted the power of new technologies but also their limitations, creating new types of demand on the sector. A lack of personal, physical connection is hard to replace digitally when the subtle cues and gestures on which we depend are lost: How can technologies be more interactive, sensory, experiential and connective? The Tech sector has a long way to go if it’s to respond to the needs of older adults and make existing services better for everyone, not just the young.  
  3. Blending care and lived environments: Arts and cultural organisations have demonstrated how they can create new types of care environment outside of traditional care settings, whether in gardens, theatres or community spaces. They have the skills to hold open emotional spaces for older adults and artists to work creatively together. Further, their expertise in up-skilling and empowering individuals to be creative leaders can help older adults build confidence and develop new types of self-efficacy. How can we develop new types of care space where people feel able to create by themselves and with others in their own communities? This will need new and bold approaches in cross-sector working.  
  4. Blending research and lived experience: These new demands placed on cross-sector collaboration extend firmly into academia. The need to embed research into communities in order to understand lived experience has never been stronger, yet communities can be kept at ‘arm’s length’ in such work, propagating an ‘Extract, Produce, Repeat’ interaction that can leave little impact on the material and everyday struggles in question. More effective, closer, and mutually beneficial working between academia and communities is now needed. Further, new connections up-and-down between policy, research and communities is going to be vital if we are to generate models of research and evaluation that are fit for purpose.  
  5. Blending audiences and producers: We have a lot to learn about individuals’ needs and aspirations around creativity, care and technology. We can each be excited about creating our own content to share and connect with others, whatever our age. With the right support and training, there should be no reason why we can’t all be producers, co-create together and draw on our different experiences in the exchange of ideas. The barriers to this are deeply wrapped up with a convention of defining people by their age or generation. If care and Tech sectors only see homogenous groups of adults in “later life”, then these potentials will not be recognised. There is a need to re-think what Ageing is and how we label it.  
  6. Blending consumption and rights: Finally, as arts and culture find their voice in addressing some of the most complex social, health and wellbeing deficits experienced today, we have to ask: how much longer can they be defended as “nice to haves”? We are at a cultural tipping point where access to arts and culture becomes a Right not a privilege. This highlights an emerging shift in how we look to arts and culture to meet wellbeing needs. This is a huge opportunity for age sector and creative and cultural industry partners to step forward and fully realise the positive impact they can have for more people. Social prescribing offers one route, but a plurality of approaches will be needed.

The Age sector is changing, with new pressures challenging conventional ways of thinking and working. Whether it’s blending care and creativity, technology and intimacy, care and lived environments, research and lived experience, audiences and producers, consumption and rights; we are at a cultural tipping point in how we realise the full potential of care, age and creativity. It raises important questions about levels of investment in the social care sector, pay for care and third sector workers, and the support available for sustained and impactful cross-sector innovation.  

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