Dr. Sally Gelardin, AgeSong Today
For an inaugural event, the 2011 Poetics of Aging Conference, sponsored by AgeSong Institute, was a splendid affair. Approximately 400 people attended the conference over the four days. What attendees liked best was connecting with like-minded people. As one participant commented, “The people were all so talented and so creative and compassionate. The presenters were all of a creative and of positive mind. It’s wonderful to see art being utilized for the worthiness that it is. It was very friendly and comfortable here.”
Attendees also appreciated the combination of disciplines and unity of purpose across multi-dimensions and disciplines and the “incredible, but gentle force of possibility that happens when cross-disciplined professionals have the opportunity and safe container to grow deeply and professionally and meaningfully” (anonymous participant). Ratings for “conference presenters” and reported “gained from the conference” were 80% – 87%positive, between 4 (high) and 5 (very high).
An analysis of registration revealed the following:
- Word of mouth and personal referral were the most popular reasons for conference attendance.
- Ninety percent of attendees were women, who mostly work in non-profits and the arts.
- Average age was 56, with ages ranging from 16 to 97.
- Attendees were predominantly from San Francisco and East Bay, though participants also came from North Bay, South Bay, Central and Southern California, from other states and regions, such as Colorado, New York, New Mexico, as well as from British Columbia and Australia.
The biggest criticism was that there were so many interesting events that it was difficult to choose which one to attend. The flip side of such diverse offerings was eloquently expressed by one attendee, who noted, “The variety of speakers raised consciousness on how society views aging and how I do and can gain hope, connection, and aliveness.” Several registrants who were not computer savvy also had difficulty with online registration, and many preferred an updated schedule handout for each day’s events, in addition to the postings of large schedules throughout the conference.
The following providers applied for and were approved to offer Continuing Education Units for the Poetics of Aging Conference:
- Registered Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Clinical Licensed Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists
- Nursing Home Administrators,
- Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly
- National Certified Counselors
- Global Career Development Facilitators
Heeding feedback from attendees, conference planners are already working on the 2012 conference, with the intention of conducting it over a shorter time period (less than four days), moving keynotes from morning to lunchtime or after lunch, starting registration at discount rates earlier in the year, improving online and on-site registration, and continuing to offer continuing education units to the providers listed above, as well as to additional providers.
Potential speakers are eager for Requests for Proposals to be posted, and the list of those who would like to attend this year’s conference (some of whom could not attend the 2011 conference, due to short notice) is growing. Stay tuned for more news on the 2012 Poetics of Aging Conference, which will be posted on the Poetics website.