26 February 2021

Silver is the new gold as seniors reboot festival to meet changing expectations

| Ian Bushnell
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COTA ACT CEO Jenny Mobbs

COTA ACT CEO Jenny Mobbs: “People are working longer, volunteering into their 80s. Their health is better, they’re more mobile.” Photo: Supplied

The annual Seniors Week celebration of older Canberrans has re-invented itself as an all-year event with a new brand to project a more contemporary image of ageing and to keep senior issues in the public eye.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) ACT says Seniors Week will now be called the Silver is Gold Festival with various events such as the Chief Minister’s Concert and workshops peppered through the year, as well as Community Art and Photographic Competitions to kick off proceedings.

COTA ACT CEO Jenny Mobbs said the move would also spread risk for the organisation after a year in which Seniors Week events were lost due to COVID-19.

She said the concept of and format for Seniors Week had been locked in for so long that COTA believed it was time to think outside the square and reinvigorate the event, including a stronger push for sponsors.

Inspired by all the silver hair around her, Ms Mobbs pushed for the name change to reflect the value of older people to the community.

“When I first came here if I saw an 80-year-old we thought they were old, now we’re seeing 90-year-olds come in with their computer,” she said.

“People are working longer, volunteering into their 80s. Their health is better, they’re more mobile.”

Ms Mobbs said the spread of events from April to November would give people more choice and opportunity to attend events, and allow COTA to keep issues relating to seniors front of mind, especially after the disappointing move not to have a dedicated Minister for Seniors in the ACT Government and older people missing out in the recent Budget.

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An International Women’s Day event on 10 March at Hughes Community Centre will focus on the three big issues for older women – health, housing and finance, while later in the year there will be workshops on the cost of energy and safe driving, with expert panels.

Also on COTA’s radar was the problem of age discrimination against older workers.

Ms Mobbs said that while the organisation had always had good contacts with business it wanted to take a different approach this year launching a prospectus targeting, for example, the lucrative retirement industry.

“Retirement living in Canberra is a big business now and we’ve done a lot of leg work for them for free in the past, and now it’s time for them to support us,” she said.

But the rebrand was also about about connecting people again after what was a tough year for seniors.

The year will begin with the Community Art and Photographic Competitions, and COTA ACT is calling on young and old from across the Canberra region to participate.

“We want to begin our Silver is Gold Festival by involving the community in re-imagining ageing through the expression of art and photography,” Ms Mobbs said.

“The competition guidelines ask the community, young and old, to spark a connection when creating an art or photographic piece for this competition and exhibition.”

Selected finalists will be displayed at shopping centres and malls across the ACT, with judges looking for works that capture a moment or tell a story about older people and their lives.

The official Silver is Gold Festival launch, Community Art and Photographic Exhibition Opening and Award Ceremony will take place on Wednesday 28 April and the Chief Minister’s Concert will be staged at the Canberra Theatre Centre the next day.

The Silver is Gold Seniors Awards will take place on Tuesday 14 September and the Silver is Gold Expo, previously the ACT Seniors Expo, will be on Thursday 16 September.

COTA ACT will also host a picnic and performance day for grandparents and grandchildren called the Silver is Gold Grandparents’ Day, on 31 October.

To learn more go to the COTA ACT website.

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