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Meaningful Ageing CEO Ilsa Hampton with members of Melbourne Playback

Between May and October this year, our CEO worked in collaboration with four playback theatre companies from across Australia as part of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice conference series.

In each Better Practice conference location (Darwin, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth), our CEO and a playback theatre group ran an interactive plenary session designed to prompt delegates to engage with their own spirituality, and begin to consider what engagement with the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care might offer the older people in their care.

“One of the known barriers to the successful integration of spiritual care in aged care is that leaders don’t understand or value what spiritual care means. In many cases, this is because people have not had the opportunity to engage with contemporary understandings of spirituality as more than religion,” commented Ilsa Hampton, Meaningful Ageing Australia’s CEO. “For some people, spirituality is not expressed through a faith or formal religious structure, whilst for others, it absolutely is.”

“We have so much in common with those we are seeking to support – including the fact that we are all ageing, and that we all have a spirituality that can be a great source of resilience for what life throws at us, if it is nurtured.”

Playback theatre companies from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane worked together with Meaningful Ageing to reproduce the session in each location. Whilst there were repeated themes across all sessions, each plenary was also unique because of the contributions from delegates. “We invited the playback groups to collaborate with us because their work mirrors a spiritual care process: careful listening, and engagement with the heart of the matter. Because playback is entirely improvised and based on what delegates share, it provided an immediacy and authenticity to each session.” Ilsa went on to explain.

The success of the sessions was clear as many delegates commented on being delighted, challenged, enlivened and given much to continue to reflect on. There was a further ‘secret ingredient’ in the sessions that meant each person was given a concrete way to continue to reflect. “These things can’t be sorted out in the space of one conference session,” Ilsa commented. “Sometimes it is only in the later reflection that the benefits of a session like this are realised. I have had numerous people approach me to talk about what was prompted for them by participating. This is typical of what happens in spiritual care – the moment of the interaction is not the end of the encounter.”

“It was a real privilege to hear the stories of those present in these sessions. Their willingness to share their experiences was a gift for the rest of us.”

Some organisations have since invited Meaningful Ageing and Playback to run a similar session for their staff because of the impact the session. If you are interested in making a similar investment, contact admin@meaningfulage.org.au.