90-year-old Tasmanian teacher graduates with doctorate on creative writing in aged care homes
Launceston teacher Joan Webb completed her PhD at the University of Tasmania using her experience of teaching creative writing classes to aged care residents.
She had begun her Master’s in her late 80’s and finished it in two years, but was only inspired to go onto her doctorate after she began teaching weekly writing classes to residents at two aged care homes (nursing homes).
Searching out older students
“There are people in high care who have lost a massive amount of their physical capacity, and still have the most amazing ideas and creativity within them,” she told the ABC.
Her thesis title – “I only look forward to Mondays: Facilitating creative writing groups: Ageism, action and empowerment” – was derived from a resident’s comment about how much they looked forward to her sessions.
The power of poetry
She began with classes in creative writing before moving onto poetry and says while initially residents were a bit reluctant to volunteer their poems, a piece by one elderly lady changed their thinking.
“She said 'No, I can't share it with you, it's too cheeky'. I said 'I like cheek',” Ms Webb said.
“Once you broke down that barrier, they did the most amazing work imaginable. They were really brilliant people, an inspiration to me.”