Meet the Amazings! Keeping knowledge alive
Older people with special skills are teaching the younger generation via an online marketplace
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 25 November 2012
They are billed the Amazings: a band of men and women fighting against the idea that older people should go quietly towards the dying of the light. A novel enterprise aimed at ensuring the unique skills possessed by Britain's senior citizens are not lost is poised to launch nationwide.
It is touted as an online marketplace for wisdom. Those over 50 who want to be one of the Amazings can post on the website the skills they have built up over a lifetime. It could be anything from bicycle repair to embroidery, and if enough people click to say they are interested, a class is created. Once listed, they decide a fee for their wisdom – typically about £20 for a two-hour evening class.
The social enterprise has been developed in London over the past year and will now be launched around the UK. The next location will be decided by the public. Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff are in the running.
Adil Abrar, who founded the social business, said: "The new old don't want to be passive receivers of public money. Older people have skills, knowledge, wisdom and time. We wanted to reimagine public services and we realised it wasn't about what we could do for older people, but what they could provide for us."
At 52, Judith Paris is one of the Amazings' youngest teachers. She runs a class in making cosmetics and has the full attention of six women in their twenties and thirties who have come from across the capital. She said: "A lot of older people feel they've got nothing to offer, but this is a way of using everyone's talents. I think we've forgotten how to mix the generations."
Tania Roque, 22, who attended the class, said: "It's really important that older people are valued. In advertising and everywhere else you just see young people, but this is making a merit of older people. I also think it's great to learn to be more self-sufficient; all these skills mean you don't have to depend on money to get someone to do something for you."
Orod Ohanians, 58
Dancing and botany
"At the moment I teach dancing and salsa and botany and have even asked to take seminars on relationships, but that is something that may come later next year. I have been so many things. I have been an art teacher, photographer, interior designer, landscaper, accountant, choreographer. I have even written books. I see myself as a teacher."
Dot McEvoy, 59
"This will be my first class teaching loom knitting. I normally work part-time in a cafe and the Amazings got in touch with me via email after I put my skills up online.
I am largely self-taught, although my mother did teach me some things in knitting. So I have been knitting for more than 50 years."
Su Leaver, 50
Ceramics and jewellery
"Without this it would be harder to teach arts, with only evening classes at colleges available. Not many people can commit to that. I teach ceramics and jewellery making. The way things are going, they are cutting arts and there are not a lot of opportunities to learn. A lot of our skills are going to be lost."
Alec Bell, 66
"There is a gap between the generations now and adult education seems to have ceased to exist. I will be teaching philosophy from January. I will initially offer two-hour introductory lessons related to the basics: how we feel about life, and things like that."
Mohini Chatlani, 57
Yoga and writing music
"I teach yoga and music writing. The Amazings is an interesting project that keeps passions alive. My background is from storytelling cultures – Egypt and India – and I think it is wonderful to have a crossover between age groups. In those cultures everyone passes stories down. I had a young student who is now a friend."
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