Living in the moment was critical to encountering the unexpected in collections and in nature, as well as being important to participants in their everyday lives. Unlike the stereotypes suggest, older people are not fixated on the past but are very much living in the present, and are interested in the future. Understanding the importance of living in the moment gives value and worth to older peoples’ lives now, not just to their memories or to their younger selves. Yet we should not dismiss peoples’ pasts, as Dorothy Pettifer, a participant in the Atkinson’s experiment explained, the past is what’s made you who you are today.

There was a strong connection between being in the later stages of life and living in the moment, which was described in different ways by participants. Some saw it as having more time to appreciate the here and now and be absorbed in the moment, very similar to mindfulness, or being able to make the most of available cultural and social opportunities. For some, living in the moment had a more poignant meaning, connected to the loss of friends and family, awareness of mortality and the need to survive from day to day. The inevitability of ageing, however, had given many participants a ‘can do’ attitude.

This short film brings together the different ways in which participants experienced ‘living in the moment’:

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Connecting to nature, connecting to people

Meaning and purpose

Active engagement