Generally our Aboriginal Elders act in serious roles; making decisions on behalf of their communities, passing down cultural knowledge and lore onto next generations - It's very rare that you see Aunties and Uncles clowning around with acrobats.
In Melbourne however, city of alternative arts, Indigenous Elders and adults are tumbling and performing tricks with the national performing group, Circus Oz. This includes practicing, acrobalance, different types of juggling, hula hooping and undertaking musical components like singing and drumming.
The engagement program, 'Deadly Elders Circus', is in partnership with The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service who work with older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic diseases and disabilities. As means of improving health and well being, the weekly two hour circus program is a more holistic approach to remedial recovery for a range of illnesses.
Participants have various impairments spanning from stroke recovery to mental illness, and even individuals who are wheelchair users. The medley of activities in the program caters for the range of diversity among the group and participants perform both, body and mind work outs. While elders improve mobility and fitnesss including strength, balance, flexibility and coordination exercises, a large component of the session ensures a strong social aspect and promotes emotional health, encouraging laughter, learning, storytelling and confidence-building in each session.
Program participant, Marilyn Teague says that the program has brought out her confidence,
"When I go to Circus, my guards are down. That's so different for me" she told NITV. "When I walk into Circus it's like magic."
Aunty Coral Hodgetts' mental well being has also improved since attending and says, "I have never laughed so much at any place as I have at Circus."
Due to social determinants, a very large number of our older Indigenous population suffer from chronic health issues such as cardiovascular diseases, injury and disability, eye and ear problems and psychological distresses. While it may seem a little silly to watch Gran and Grandad play around like kids again, programs like Deadly Elders Circus - which encourages older people to be active and socially engaged - play a fundamental role in supporting our older generations to continue their lives as strong, confident leaders in the community.