Our Older Community 2019-2020

We want to ensure that everyone who visits our Museum is comfortable, safe and has their individual needs recognised and supported. This is particularly important when thinking about our older community. This blog will highlight the engagement and outreach work with our older community over the past year. There are some really exciting projects to explore, both bringing new groups to the Museum to delve into our collection and taking the RAF story out and about within the local area.

One way that we’ve been working to better support a sector of our older community, which benefits all visitors, is by making our Museum more dementia friendly. Staff from the Access and Learning team trained as Dementia Friends Champions by the Alzheimer’s Society and started to run sessions at the Museum’s London site to create dementia friends amongst our staff. A Dementia Friend is simply somebody that learns about dementia so they can help their community. With the new circumstances we found ourselves in due to Covid-19 and many staff working from home it seemed the perfect opportunity to widen our programme and get both staff from the Cosford site and our volunteer team involved. For the past few months we’ve been running virtual Dementia Friends Information Sessions for our staff and volunteers virtually. These sessions increase awareness of dementia, aim to make us more understanding and encourage everyone to pledge to make a dementia friendly action. Making our Museum part of a dementia friendly community is just one of the things we’ve been up to over the past year to engage and support our older community.

Dementia Friends Banner

Last year saw us working with Age UK Barnet on a series of workshops for their Men’s Group. It was a brilliant opportunity and we were pleased to be chosen as a venue that Age UK were confident the group would feel comfortable within and enjoy exploring. We ran six fortnightly session which explored a varied and diverse range of topics drawing on the expertise of different members of the Access and Learning team. One of the team delivered a talk on the topic of Medical Evacuation, another performed ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’, a dramatic performance focusing on African and Caribbean personnel within the RAF. The group also had an unusual biomimicry tour of some of our aircraft; they learnt more about how aircraft design mimics features found in nature to help them fly faster, evade radar and even how they protect themselves from sun damage. This was a session adapted from an interactive family talk showing that learning interesting aircraft facts have no upper or lower age limit!

Age UK Tour

As well as listening to talks and tours the Age UK group also had the opportunity to be actively involved in consultation for a new exhibition. They were asked about a selection of ten artworks which were potentially going to be featured in a new Battle of Britain Art exhibition and asked to both vote for their favourite and write their own community captions. Along with other groups, such as Art for Wellbeing learners and the Grahame Park Drop-in Group, Age UK Barnet Men’s Group were shown images of the artwork and gave their initial opinions on style, content and emotional impact.

Age UK Group

It was amazing to get to know the gentlemen from Age UK and have the opportunity to bring them to the Museum site and explore wide ranging topics over a number of weeks. Getting groups out and about and physically into the Museum isn’t always possible. Thinking about how to engage our older community who can’t get to the Museum gave us a wonderful opportunity to develop workshops for our local North London care homes, to share the RAF story with those people who are interested and have wonderful stories to tell, but in a space that is safe and comfortable for them.

The focus of these sessions for care homes was the amazingly unique history of aviation that revolves around our London site. Taking place normally in entertainment rooms where residents usually indulge in art activities and music sessions, we whizz groups through the fascinating history of the London Aerodrome and RAF Hendon. To make it as engaging as possible talks included archive images and photos from Hendon’s past as well as film footage going back as far as the 1930s of Hendon Pageants from times gone by. Probably the highlight of the sessions is a chance for residents to handle, or for the adventurous don and strut the catwalk in, uniforms from our handling collection. Having a varied approach within these sessions including a tactile experience is so important and ensures that everyone, with a range of different interests and needs, can participate and enjoy our collection in different ways.

Flying at Hendon

It’s important to remember that working with our older community isn’t all about history and looking back, but learning new skills and looking to the future. Our future programming for people over 60 will be focusing on combining using our collection in new and inventive ways to support new skills and learning, changing perceptions of both the RAF and people’s own abilities and ultimately the joy of exploration and discovery.

About the Author

Rhiannon Watkinson: Community Engagement Manager

As Community Engagement Manager I have the amazing job of sharing the RAF Museum’s collection with our local community. I love using everything the Museum has to offer in new and innovative ways in order to engage new audiences and ensure that everyone can have a connection to the RAF Museum.