Symposium and theater production on solo aging come to Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor-based theater consulting company Limelight will host a symposium on solo aging on May 10 at the Ann Arbor District Library, in conjunction with a theatrical performance on solo aging.

"Solo Acts: A Solo Aging Symposium and Theatrical Performance" will offer a panel discussion, breakout sessions, a free lunch, and free transportation options. It's an expansion of Limelight's theatrical show "Solo Acts," which has been seen by audiences in New York, Detroit, and Ypsilanti. The show is based on numerous interviews with people who are aging alone.

Limelight team member and solo ager Sharon Cramer says audiences at previous "Solo Acts" performances wanted more opportunities to discuss the production's themes, and more local resources for solo aging. Cramer says the symposium model will hopefully allow for those opportunities to flourish.

"The symposium concept was very much a model where people could come and see the things that are available to them, many times for free, that they may not be aware of," Cramer says. "We’re intending to open the door to new possibilities with the conference and post-performance opportunities to engage in dialogue with political leaders in the community as part of the full audience experience, then give opportunities to attend workshops we think will be helpful."

Cramer will host the breakout session, "What’s Next? How to Reinvent the Solo Life," which will cover topics such as ways to expand friendship circles and deepen existing friendships, identify enriching local resources, and "practical strategies for solo living, based on the experiences of a solo ager," according to Cramer. She mentions that events of this nature are oftentimes not catered to solo agers. She hopes attendees will not only discover new resources, but also form relationships with others who are experiencing similar things.

"We want to give people a lot of avenues to reconsider what they’re doing," she says. "A lot of solo agers don’t see a place for themselves in a lot of public events. Some people feel reluctant to walk into a room where they know nobody. In the theater piece and throughout this event, there will be a lot more room for everybody than one would think."

Limelight founder Jessica "Decky" Alexander agrees that many past "Solo Acts" attendees were solo agers themselves looking to meet others with similar lived experiences. In addition to fostering community, she hopes the symposium will encourage in-depth conversation about the challenges and the joys of aging alone.

"This is intended to foster awareness and make solo aging visible overall," Alexander says. "Part of the responsibility of doing this type of theater is how to extend the experience beyond the theater piece itself. We want to use the theater to generate ways to address specific issues."

The symposium will be free to attend, and parking vouchers and free transportation will be available through a partnership with nonprofit Feonix - Mobility Rising. Alexander and the Limelight team hope to eliminate barriers and increase accessibility for all attendees. Limelight team member Tyler Calhoun hopes these measures, as well as the overall content of the symposium and theatrical performance, will draw a wide variety of attendees and open up a broader conversation about solo aging.

"Solo agers are often not prioritized in a way like this, where we carve out time and gather organizations and provide transportation and food to get people together to talk about these things," Calhoun says. "Some of these topics are heavy and not the easiest things to approach, but ... we’ve taken the feedback from solo agers, the people in the audience, and made the work stronger [to] better reflect those audiences."

"Solo Acts: A Solo Aging Symposium and Theatrical Performance" will take place on May 10 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. in Ann Arbor. Those interested in the symposium can RSVP at this link.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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