British Columbia

Vancouver seniors stage play to express shared feelings of invisibility

A new Vancouver theatre project called Seniors Create aims to bring the stories of seniors to the stage.

Seniors Create gives a voice and visibility to a group that doesn't always get a lot of exposure

Rae Collins, Marnie Perrin, Yvonne Adalain, Noreen Campbell and Gina Stockdale are part of the Seniors Create project. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

When 61-year-old Rae Collins walks down the sidewalk, sometimes she can't help but feel invisible.

All too often, she'll find herself having to jump out of the way of younger passerby, who are oblivious to her presence.

"They're just involved with their own conversations, or they're staring down at their cell phones as they walk along," she said.

The experience is shared among many seniors in Vancouver — and its featured in a new play, Seniors Createthat aims to raise awareness of the social challenges many seniors endure in virtue of their age. 

Seniors Create

The production is the work of artistic director Marnie Perrin: a busy mom who got the idea for the production during an emotional conversation with her father-in-law.

​"[He] said to me, 'When did I become invisible? I walk down the mall, people bump into me, people cut in front of me in lines, teenagers don't acknowledge me," she said.

"I thought is this a common experience amongst many seniors, so I started the Seniors Create project."

Perrin wanted to create a stage play that reflected the universality of certain feelings and emotions amongst seniors. She started by running workshops, where seniors would connect and share their stories, which eventually became the foundation of the script.

The project is still in its early phases, but she says the interest from participants has caught on like wildfire.

"People are really excited about [being heard], and just having a voice," she said. "I think that's been the biggest thing — seniors having the opportunity to be listened to."

Connecting generations

According to 72-year-old Gina Stockdale, one of Perrin's mentors and contributer to the project, the lived experiences embodied within the script read like you're listening in on a candid conversation.

"Everything in the script ... comes from people's own experiences and their own memories and their own wisdom. You could never write the richness of the material that we've collected. It's an incredible patchwork quilt," she said.

Stockdale says she hopes the eventual stage production of the project helps mend the relationship between the young and the old.

"One of the things that we have to do is to connect the ages. It's absolutely vital that the generations talk to each other and stay connected  and aren't frightened of each other."

"And I mean that on both ways of the street. We're not frightened of the young, and they're not frightened of us."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver seniors stage play to express shared feelings of invisibility