Originally Published: May 17, 2005 5 a.m.
PRESCOTT Seniors from Yavapai College explore issues and ideas that they believe prove that "Youth is a Gift of Nature" and "Aging is a Work of Art," which is also the name of their theater project through the college's Center for Successful Aging.
Bert Elizabeth Ijams, who is the founder of the Actors Studio of Prescott and directs the YC group, worked with Dennis Garvey to create a program that would allow the seniors involved to perform skits that dissolve misconceptions about seniors and educate youth about the things they have in common.
"Dennis was asking how we could open up some dialogue with regard to the issues surrounding aging," Ijams said. "Theater is a very powerful tool."
During class, Ijams said the seniors would discuss and share ideas about aging and the myths and stereotypes that come along with aging. She would tape record their thoughts and ideas and turn them into dialogue for short skits.
The group travels to different senior homes and other organizations to perform these skits and to bring about awareness of aging issues.
With the message they're bringing to so many people, "They're really capturing the spirit I was hoping for," Garvey, director of the Center for Successful Aging, said.
Ijams said some of the misconceptions people have about seniors are "that older people walk around in curlers and house robes and that they are no longer interested in sexual relations. There is also the myth that older people have nothing in common with young people, and this is helping break that myth."
The seniors in the class are not actors, Ijams said, and "the goal is not to have a polished theatrical performance. We want to reach out to an age diverse population."
They simply want to spread messages that get rid of false ideas. For example, one skit dealt with the fact that "many people think older people don't date, don't seek adventure and don't enjoy the company of younger people."
As one "actor" pointed out, "Our hair turns gray and our faces may buckle a little, but that doesn't mean we no longer want to have fun, romance, excitement and discovery."
Another said, "there's a myth that we no longer want to be desired as we age, but the reality is that we'll always want to be desired. The bodies decline as we get older, but the mind and spirit inside those bodies are vibrant."
She added, "We all crave companionship in ways that are sexual and ways that are not."
They talk about dating again after losing a spouse, dressing up to join friends for lunch and shopping for stylish, fashionable clothes.
Aside from breaking myths and stereotypes, the "actors" made the point that they know they are no longer young, but they still have plenty of life to live.
They realize that you don't mix "Speedo's and cellulite," "midriff shirts and midriff bulge," "short shorts and varicose veins" or "inline skates and a walker."
At the end of their performance, the seniors gave a small statement of lessons they have learned over the years.
Though they have "sags, bags, wrinkles and gray hair," they still have plenty to offer.
"Keep a song in your heart and keep dancing," one actor said, and another added, "try new things and just enjoy living."
One actor realizes that "we become more like ourselves as we age, and less like anyone else," and another said, "If we know who we are, we can do whatever we want, no matter what society says."
Anyone interested in learning more about the Center for Successful Aging at Yavapai or the "Youth is a Gift of Nature, Aging is a Work of Art" class may call Dennis Garvey at 717-7607.