The social problem I am addressing is the treatment of a marginalized group. And more specifically, the treatment of the elderly in American society. In the United States, the elderly population (persons above age 65) numbers 39.6 million – that is roughly 12% of the total population. For such an expansive population, the elderly are generally neglected. In our ever changing, fast-paced world they just don’t move fast enough to keep up. And this population is steadily increasing, by 2050 they are projected to be 1 in 5 persons. I have done research on their treatment in the public sphere and have found that they are marginalized both by societal designs and social interaction. Many elements of day-to-day life are not designed for them as users, especially in regards to their mobility. And, unlike Asian cultures in which the grandparents live at home with their extended family, nursing homes have become a popular care solution in the U.S. Not only are the elderly neglected as a group but their needs are neglected too. The decline in their physical abilities, their isolation and their battle against diseases are among the biggest challenges they face. They are a population in need of a voice. I believe that the elderly are a group of people to be highlighted rather than cast aside. By ignoring them, we are hurting only ourselves and limiting what we can learn. They carry a wisdom with them that is unparalleled and it needs to be harnessed. I aim to bring attention to the elderly and awareness about the problems they confront on a daily basis.
My solution to the problem is drawing attention to the elderly through a theatre performance. This project has become my yearlong combination Senior Thesis as a BAFA student at the New School. For my Lang thesis I am writing a play. Then, for my Parsons thesis I am designing the general performance, costumes and experience of the play. The play follows the elderly Professor Shnuffle through a day in his life. The audience learns about Professor Shnuffle’s daily struggles such as physical movement, loneliness and the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. The audience also gets insights to his life through flashbacks to provide a deeper understanding of who he is today. The play focuses on one character with the intention of providing a trope for the marginalized elderly in general. The actual performance will challenge normal standards of theatre. The play will take place in an apartment turned theatre, decorated like it is Professor Shnuffle’s. The audience size will be smaller than is typical – providing a more intimate environment, one in which the audience is truly able to see and understand who the character is. The costumes, music, and lighting design will all give further insight to who Professor Shnuffle is and how he lives. The hope is that the audience leaves thinking about how they can treat the elderly in their life more compassionately – a grass roots campaign essentially. The intention is to open people’s eyes to a societal problem and begin a discussion about what needs to change.