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Can Genrotoromcoms reduce Gerontophobia?

The Eden Alternative South Africa has definitely been placed on the map with its mention in the 2017 World Health Organisation report. South Africa, with a select example of an Eden registered facility, has been named as a leader in the field of institutional aged care in the recent publication [please refer to WHO (2017). Towards long-term care systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.]

This has led me to thinking about other leaders in the field of aged care. Among these I definitely count South Korea as a favourite. In November 2017 I was part of a collaborative committee with The University of Western Australia for hosting the Ageing and New Media International Symposium. This symposium brought together researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and care givers to showcase their innovative work in the field of ageing – especially caring across distance using new media. Organisers Loretta Baldassar (University of Western Australia) and Raelene Wilding (La Trobe University, Australia) impressed on attendees to recognize the role of distant carers in the support networks of the elderly and how new media and digital literacy can facilitate ageing in and beyond place.
The excellent range of international speakers included Helen Manchester (University of Bristol, UK) who presented her work on Tangible Memories, and Ivaylo Vassilev (University of Southampton, UK) whose research focuses on understanding the role of social networks in the everyday management of long-term conditions.

As a migrant myself many presentations on migration and citizenship, as well of caring for elderly parents across a distance, resonated with my current lived experiences.

A presentation by Jyotsna Kalavar (Pennsylvania State University, USA) focused on the use of communication technology by Asian Indian immigrants in the United States with seniors in India. I was hugely encouraged that migration should not focus only on the disruption of families, but provide an opportunity for growth – embracing new opportunities for digital ‘kinning’ and becoming transnational families.

But the inspiration came from a presentation by Jo Elfving-Hwang (The University of Western Australia). Since 2004 there has been a boom in the Korean movie industry – pensioners have the time to watch movies, so this market has grown tremendously. The focus in this genre is on meaningful images of ageing – using humour and literally depicting elderly bodies as desirable (see the poster for ‘Too young to die’). The key message is to imagine old age as an ‘open future of becoming’ (Gravagne, 2013); that being older creates opportunities for romantic encounters – hence ‘Genrotoromcoms’. But this a mere aspect of the movie industry. The Seoul Film Festival also encourages elders to produce short films of 11 to 16 minutes long, creating a whole new leisure pursuit.

Now the question remains: Will this new way of thinking about ageing reduce stereotyping? We should watch this space! One can but hope…

Dr Sanet du Toit is an Eden Associate and while she is currently making a difference in Sydney Australia, her heart is firmly rooted in South African soil.

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