Ageing conference inspires new short film

July 18th, 2024Ageing conference inspires new short film

The experience of community members being talked over at an ageing conference was the spark that inspired the theme of a new short film shot in Clunes.
Above, a still from the Giving Voice film with, from left, Attitude participants Tess Brady, Pauline Clemens, Rod Tregear and Patsy Skinner

The experience of community members being talked over at an ageing conference was the spark that inspired the theme of a new short film shot in Clunes.

That film, Giving Voice to Ageing Well in a Small Community, has now gone on to become one of three made to help tell the story of a groundbreaking collaboration between Central Highlands Rural Health, Clunes Neighbourhood House and members of Attitude.

The contemporary Clunes-based alternative to the senior citizens of yesteryear, Attitude is a community-led initiative providing ongoing social, cultural, creative and physical activities for retirees and folk aged 55 plus, with all ages welcome.

The 12-month collaboration between Attitude, CHRH and Clunes Neighbourhood House has trialled a new approach to improving older folk’s physical and psychological well-being.

Findings were the focus of a special event held before a packed house in Clunes last Thursday, July 11, at Attitude in the town’s Fraser Street.

“When Attitude members got up to speak at an ageing expo at the very start of this project they were ignored and talked over by people working in the ageing industry,” said award-winning documentary filmmaker Dr Catherine Gough-Brady.

“So, I said let’s channel your anger about your experience of ageism into a short film where you get to express your thoughts,” Dr Gough-Brady said, describing how the new short film came into being.

Dr Gough-Brady, who has produced several ABC radio and TV documentaries, including The Communicator (2022), was approached by the Attitude members to film the story of the hub’s evolution in Clunes as a resource that shares real knowledge and practical insights for other communities.

“The script for the film is made up of lines from interviews with people from Attitude,” she said.

“Elders from Clunes chose a line they would like to deliver to the camera. Even though everyone is performing their lines, they are authentic experiences that are deeply felt. And it shows.”

Composer of the original music for the film, Elizabeth Drake, said the small film of just two minutes has some big things to say. Ms Drake’s other film credits include musical scores for Road to Nhill and Japanese Story.

“I was collaborating on this project that was challenging the stereotypes of ageing, but I was doing it from my studio in Melbourne, and I just wanted to get in and meet everyone,” she said.

“It led to me thinking about the tropes in society that accumulate around a certain identity or position. I also explored the word Attitude, which is the name the community has given to the loose collective in which they work to run their activities and the building in which they meet.

“The word is linked to ‘truculent’ and ‘uncooperative,’ so I wove those feelings into the music. Seeing how the film has come together, it is representative of real experience, giving a voice to real people.

The accumulation of voices adds up to a powerful message.”The Giving Voice short film screened during last Thursday’s gathering of industry and community members, during which the three key partners in the collaboration discussed the findings of the year-long project.

“Forty-five percent of people in our region are over 55,” says CHRH deputy CEO Phil Catterson.

“And only 17 per cent of people will go online to My Aged Care to help access services.”

The project has highlighted the huge importance of maintaining ongoing relationships between different community groups, agencies and service providers, Clunes Neighbourhood House manager Lana de Kort said.

Tess Brady of the Attitude, Ageing Well in Clunes working party highlighted the importance that the project revealed also of “doing things with people rather than for people”.

“People want to feel welcome and supported, safe, valued and accepted,” Mr Catterson said. “A sense of purpose and belonging is so important.”

The event also featured a guest presentation from Dr Mike Rungie from the EveryAGE Counts coalition steering group whose discussion touched on the way leaving a working life behind can present major life challenges.

Adelaide-based Dr Rungie highlighted the importance for every individual of maintaining a valuable role, or several, in the community throughout life’s journey.

He suggested sampling multiple different community-based activities, and particularly volunteering as a valuable means to achieve this for those who have moved on from the conventional paid workforce.

Words: Eve Lamb

Friday’s time to ‘get your uke on’ in Clunes

August 18th, 2023Friday’s time to ‘get your uke on’ in Clunes

It’s Friday on a chill mid winter afternoon in Clunes but the sounds emanating from the town’s Attitude building have a distinctly sunny edge. The weekly ukulele group gathering is in progress.

Words and Images: Eve Lamb

It’s Friday on a chill mid winter afternoon in Clunes but the sounds emanating from the town’s Attitude building have a distinctly sunny edge. The weekly ukulele group gathering is in progress.

This fun little group has been happening now for the past couple of years, ever since Attitude started and the pandemic lockdowns ended.

Attitude – Ageing Well (its full name) is a community-led initiative that provides a range of social, intellectual and physical activities for people aged 60 plus – but all ages are welcome.

“It’s lots of fun,” says uke group leader, Clunes’ Victoria Reeve who is blessed with a singing voice that can hold a tune. Several years ago now, she took up playing ukulele out of a long-held wish to learn a musical instrument of some type.

“I used to regularly go to the Ballarat group before the pandemic,” Victoria said.

A couple of years ago a friend, who wanted to learn to play this personality-packed little stringed relative of the guitar, urged Victoria to start a group anew in Clunes.

“At the time, I said ‘but I’m only a beginner myself and largely self-taught’, and she said ‘well that’s better than what’s currently available which is nothing’.”

The group started meeting informally at Victoria’s house but the response was strong and now it meets every Friday from 3pm to 5pm at Attitude Clunes headquarters in Fraser Street.

“We’ve now got a core group of about five or six who are pretty consistent and we always welcome new members,” Victoria says.

“Basically we just love playing and singing. We play a few songs from as far back as the 60s but mostly from the 70s, 80s and 90s and also a couple of modern ones as well.”

The focus is wholly on having fun, and socialising while enjoying music, but the weekly sessions do tend to reap results in terms of participants’ musical ability.

“It’s really good to have that regular meeting because it keeps you honest,” Victoria says as we discuss the importance of practice, practice, practice.

As group leader Victoria brings to the gatherings not just a love of music but also a professional background as an educator, albeit in the area of tertiary-level literary studies. She still works as a writing teacher for both adults and children, and also leads regular exercise classes as part of the Attitude program as well.

She says the reasons locals decide to pick up a uke and join the group sessions are many and varied.

“One of our members considers it her ‘me’ time and certainly singing together releases all of those positive brain chemicals. People learn best when they are happy and enjoying themselves,” she says.

“One of our members is a really good muso and had a career where she’s performed but everyone has their own reasons for coming along.

“One of our members just wanted to be able to play ‘Happy Birthday’ for family members, and another one likes to go caravanning and he wanted to be able to sit around the campfire and play.

“With the uke it’s such a fun little instrument. It’s hard to be dogmatic or didactic about it.”

For Victoria learning to play this fun little instrument was the fulfilment of a lifetime wish that began as a child. It helped that she could sing.

“There was a local group, since disbanded, that had started meeting here in Clunes back a couple of years before the pandemic and I took to it quite quickly. I went and bought my first uke and I now have five or six which is more than any human being needs,” she laughs.

“Because it only has four strings it is easier than guitar and it’s a nice portable little instrument.”

Those interested in taking on the uke may be inspired by the likes of uke super group, The Ukulele Death Squad, (Google it if you aren’t already familiar) which demonstrates what’s potentially possible with this slightly humorous and humble little instrument.

But there’s absolutely no pressure to perform at all for the Clunes group regulars.

“The group has a lovely social quality,” Victoria says. “There’s no pressure to perform. It’s a really nice way to make friends, sharing an activity. I would recommend it to anyone if they’re feeling a bit isolated.”

Group regular Sandra Nichols says that before the group started she had purchased a ukulele but had then left it sitting, unplayed, until the group came into being.

“I think playing a musical instrument is really good for the brain, and we sing as well which is really uplifting,” says Sandra who encouraged Victoria to lead the group.

All of the uke players agree the gatherings are a great mood boost.

“Music makes you feel good,” says Deb James who, like fellow group regular Graham Quemard, likes to take her uke on caravanning trips and take it out around the campfire.

If you’re interested in rolling up for one of the Friday arvo uke sessions at Attitude you don’t even need to possess your own ukulele as the group can provide spares for those keen to give it a go.

Those keen to place dibs on borrowing one and getting along for a session can contact Victoria on 0420-432-931.

Ageing with attitude and maturing in place

December 23rd, 2022Ageing with attitude and maturing in place

THEIR parents may have been okay with becoming senior citizens, but as they move beyond a certain age, today’s baby boomers and the first of Gen X behind them - not so much.

Words and Image: Eve Lamb

THEIR parents may have been okay with becoming senior citizens, but as they move beyond a certain age, today’s baby boomers and the first of Gen X behind them – not so much.
It’s an observation evidenced in the fact that the building that two years back used to house Clunes’ Senior Citizens is now HQ for Attitude: Ageing Well.
Attitude by name – as solidly stated on their wooden signage – and Attitude by nature. It’s clear there’s no shortage of the stuff going down here.
Attitude is “a grass roots model of ageing well in community”, explains a flier. It’s a home-grown model that sits under the Clunes Neighbourhood House umbrella, and is starting to grab attention from further afield.
As I pull up a seat inside Attitude HQ, I’m here to hear first-hand from the regulars whether they believe there’s a need for more retirement living options in Hepburn Shire. There is general agreement there is but it doesn’t take long to discover the Attitude focus is far more wide-ranging.
Gareth Sharp, a retired engineer who used to project manage for government, and Lois Nichols, a former city-based magazine sales professional, are quick to point out that social connectivity underscores much of what Attitude is all about.
“We run along the same lines as the Mens’ Shed movement,” Lois says.
Those who get along are invited to introduce any particular interest area and then oversee it becoming part of the program. Since Attitude started in November 2020 it’s conducted more than 600 activities involving more than 2500 participants.
Regular free film nights, weekly pétanque sessions, bi-weekly boot camp, easy indoor exercise class, ukulele, philosophy, art, and outdoors walking are all just a bit of what’s on their seasonally renewed program – as are social outings.
“When you look at the population of Clunes there are so many people who are retirees or wanting to retire here, but we’re very inclusive and we welcome anyone coming along including those who would not previously have been considered senior citizens. It (adequate retirement living) will be an issue. There will be people from our baby boomer cohort with health issues.”
Access to transport, particularly for those who may not have a licence or a private vehicle is also an issue that comes up. Ready access to a community bus would help Attitude run its ongoing outings to locations that include wineries. Funding is also needed to enable programs to be subsidised.
The issue of ensuring provisions are in place to age well surrounded by friends is a perennial one, and it’s quite a pressing one for Hepburn Shire, the director of Belle Property Regional Victoria, Will Walton, observes.
Being in real estate gives Will a unique vantage point from which to regard the wider issue. “I think the council needs to take a proactive approach to planning for growth that includes attracting operators of retirement villages,” he says.
“We’re one of the older local government areas in Victoria as far as population goes and hopefully both the state and local governments will look at options to enable people to stay in their community and remain connected.
“In the Daylesford area there’s a big problem, absolutely. The two issues are the availability of land to house an independent retirement village. The problem we have here is the land is very expensive.”
The other problem that Will mentions is the dearth of smaller private accommodation options – units and the like, built to house just one or two people and enable older locals to downsize yet remain happily living in their own community.
The lack of independent retirement living opportunities only entrenches the shortage of rental accommodation for younger, larger households with older singles or couples forced to remain in abodes that have become too big for them to maintain, Will says. “I think it’s a problem the entire width of the shire.”
“But I also think that independent living retirement options that come with all the bells and whistles, like cinemas and indoor pools, usually have a minimum requirement of 50 units – so I’m not sure if the smaller towns could sustain that.”
Hepburn Shire Mayor Cr Brian Hood also rates the availability of retirement living options for the Hepburn Shire as an issue demanding attention.
“My immediate reaction is that it does need attention. We do have an ageing population. We know that the median age for people living in Hepburn is 52 and that’s older than the state average, and it’s a significant proportion of our community.
“And we’re painfully aware that housing availability is a general issue for our community including appropriate housing for older residents.”
Cr Hood was among those who, a few months ago, attended the launch in Creswick of Hepburn Shire’s No Barrier Positive Ageing Strategy 2022-30.
He says provision of housing to meet the specific needs of more mature locals into the future is one of the main focus areas prioritised within that strategy. Others include transport, health and social connectivity and participation.

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