TV today seems to be all about high-priced celebrities, expensive shows and ongoing drama.
Anita Smith, her husband, Dwight, and a group of friends at Keilor Retirement Village have a new approach. They create programs for two television channels that are streamed throughout their village. Their celebrities are residents who hit the boards for Roaring 20s nights, group singing events and televised exercise classes. When one of your most popular news spots is the weekly footy tipping competition update, you can keep program expenses low. The only drama happens when a 90-year-old resident needs Dwight to urgently rewire their TV set so they can join the televised exercise classes.
Anita and Dwight are 70-year-olds who draw on their professional experience to plan and produce programs. Anita is a retired financial counsellor and was the co-author of the COTA Victoria publication Death of a Partner, while Dwight is an experienced journalist.
Together, they work on material for two television channels at Keilor. Channel 5 is for news about weekly village events. Channel 50 streams a wide range of entertainment, historical, health and fitness programs. ‘Channel 50 streams three movies a week. We also produce items of interest to residents, such as local histories or a compilation of music and songs for events such as Australia Day‘, Anita says.
‘Older people like different formats for information and communication,’ she says. ‘Some programs might just be slides with background music. Others are more complex and involve residents in a variety of ways. Local histories are popular because residents can provide the information, photographs and other material required for the program.’
‘When people were confined to their homes during COVID, we needed to be more creative in developing programs that engaged them. It can be as simple as having people come to their front doors and join a community sing-a-long or costume party with on-screen backing music. Exercise and fitness programs are very popular and we schedule classes twice a day. We are keen to stream the COTA Victoria exercise classes,’ Anita says.
Looking ahead, Anita says the internal television system provides a good opportunity to produce simple videos to explain issues of importance to older people. How to get and use a QR code is an example.
‘The challenge is that a lot of older people cannot use digital equipment for communication or information. But they can access a television. Our aim is to develop programs in formats that are interesting and engaging. It’s a model that can be used in other centres that accommodate older people,’ Anita says.
It is also another example of how ‘being 70’ can result in innovative thinking that is fun and beneficial.