On 5th December, the Age Friendly Museums Network West Midlands met at Shakespeare's New Place for an Age Confident Museums showcase event. The session was run by Jane Barmer from Kingswood Age Confident.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has recently signed up to the Age Friendly Standards and are always looking at ways to improve accessibility across the sites.
Kingswood is a a training and consultancy company specialising in improving practice and impacting on the engagement of older employees and customers.
During the first part of our session, Jane explored some of the theory behind working to be age friendly. We discussed the importance of avoiding generalised thoughts on what it means to be an 'older' person when thinking about making sites accessible. This was particularly explored in relation to being aware of the difference between natural biological ageing and chronic health conditions.
The second part of our day was a practical exploration. We were able to walk in the shoes of an older person with equipment to mimic certain effects of natural ageing and specific health conditions. These included shoes to alter balance, gloves to simulate arthritis, and glasses to simulate conditions such as glaucoma. We then ventured out into the museum to assess the accessibility of the site. We definitely all felt overwhelmed by the experience!
Although this practical session was short, we all felt that we had a glimpse of feelings of isolation, confusion, and frustration. These made a big impact on our understanding and empathy which we hope to channel into improving our visitor experience and events going forward.