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‘Re-Imagining Ageing’ in the White Building

Last week, Lab4Living hosted a reading and exhibition showcasing new poetry which explores themes of ageing. The event in the White Building was led by Lab4Living researcher Dr Joan Healey, an occupational therapist at Sheffield Hallam University.

Over 100 pieces of poetry were written by participants in writing groups in Sheffield and beyond. Participants were invited to reflect on what ageing feels like and what it means to be an older person. The event was the first opportunity for the writing group participants to meet and share their work in person since the pandemic began.

Poetry readings in the White Building

As part of Lab4Living’s Research England funded research on the 100-year life we are developing the use of creative methods to give voice to different perspectives of ageing. We aim to build understanding of the experiences of individuals and to examine the role of objects in shaping what it means to be an older person. Work currently on view in the White Building spotlights enquiries from different perspectives, one led by occupational therapist Joan Healey, and the other by product designer Tom Maisey.

Participants view the exhibition of poetry

Written word and the lived experience

Dr Joan Healey is an occupational therapist and writer in the Faculty of Health, Wellbeing and Life-Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. Her work with Lab4Living explores how the written word can illuminate the lived experience, helping to facilitate meaningful engagement and contribute to health and wellbeing education.

Joan began this project by contacting some writing groups who were meeting online during the pandemic and inviting them to participate in some creative writing. She provided some writing prompts as a starting point for people to write prose or poetry about issues around ageing, the mismatch of external views of ageing and the personal feelings of ageing; people’s experiences of time; the lived experience of their own ageing. Joan facilitated some of the groups and other groups ran the workshops themselves. People were invited to contribute any of their writing to the project.

Exhibition and event

A selection of pieces of writing from over 100 contributions is currently on show in the White Building.

We want to celebrate the thoughtful, challenging and beautifully evocative writing from the participants and to use the writing as prompts for debate and discussion about how we view ageing.

Joan Healey

At last Tuesday’s event (held during the afternoon and in the evening), writing group participants were able to meet for the first time since the pandemic. They were able to read from their work and view the pieces on display along with members of the Lab4Living team.



Following the exhibition, Joan hopes to produce an anthology of the all the work which will celebrate the work of the participants and support undergraduate teaching in Health and Wellbeing.

  • Further info: For more information about how you can view the exhibition and / or get involved, please contact Joan Healey.
  • Project partners: Sheffield Libraries, Sheffield Women’s writing group, SWit’CH Swinton writers group, Guildford U3A

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