I wandered along to a jazz concert on Sunday afternoon, along with dozens of other music lovers. it was part of a very popular free concert series that showcases West Australian musicians of various genres. In summer the concerts are conducted outdoors at sunset and people bring along picnic blankets and snacks and relax with family and friends to the strains of whatever music happens to be flavour of the week. In winter, the concerts are held mid afternoon in the  theatre (dry, warm and comfy) and drinks/snacks are available at the bar.

We were super excited to find out about these concerts when we first arrived in Perth, 20+ years ago. As new migrants with limited financial resources, we were up for just about any entertainment that wouldn’t cost anything – so many hours were spent out at the beach, down at the river and on our bikes exploring the ‘burbs.

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The free concerts were something new and we became regulars, never sure whether we’d be listening to sitar or guitar, jazz or soul, funk or reggae – but happy to be out and having adventures, getting up to dance and enjoying the relaxed ambiance inspired by happy people and good music.

Looking around this week I was surprised to see that most of the group was probably well and truly over 60, rugged up in jackets and with umbrellas to hand in case skies opened.  They were completely engaged, chatting in the queue, quaffing a glass of wine or cup of coffee before the show and or at the interval, going all out applauding and cheering the (excellent) musicians.

This set me to pondering and one question led to the next: where were the younger set(s)? Why are they not taking advantage of this opportunity? Do they no longer enjoy live music? Have they become sufficiently ‘cashed up’ to be picky as to what genre they’re prepared to listen to? Or have readily accessible electronics  made home-based entertainment easier and more inviting?

I guess as we morph from being students to adults, often with families of our own and certainly with jobs and responsibilities, our focus changes. We may start to move in different circles and, as time goes by, our interests inevitably shift. But in this process does our capacity to engage in and with life outside of our home/family/job narrow as we use it less? Do we slowly drift into patterns and routines that are comfortable and, in that process, start to view alternatives as ‘effort’ rather than ‘living’?

Either way I see it as a potentially slippery slope towards becoming old – not physically or chronologically, but mentally. To remain cognitively alert and socially relevant outside of our home/work context surely requires active engagement with the world around us. Join me in not going gently!

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