Older people have been fighting the negative perceptions of ageing in society for many years but society is taking time to catch up. The deficit model that focuses on the negative aspects of ageing seems to be all pervasive. Museums too unconsciously ‘buy-in’ to this model through the opportunities and activities that are offered to older people, as well as the way in which older people are perceived by museums.
There are many older people out there looking for interesting and creative things to do, activities that stimulate their thinking, enable them to be creative, that are accessible and meaningful, that give them something to think about, and do something about, the things they care about – activities, essentially, that enable them to think, feel and do.
Our challenge for museums is – how can we develop programmes and activities (that are part of the core activity of museums) that meet the needs of people in the later stages of their lives? What happens when we look beyond our perceptions of older people and see them – not as people living in the past or as passive consumers of the present – but as active participants in the future?