Eddie and Liza at the Big Band Dance 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival

Liza Ng with dance partner Eddie at the Big Band Dance at Melbourne Town Hall.

The 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival was the biggest undertaken in its 35-year history.

With more than 2,000 free and low-cost events spread right across the state, the five-week celebration of our state’s 1.2 million seniors reached more people than ever before.

And, judging by the reaction from the thousands who attended, it wasn’t just the biggest Festival – it was the best.

Julie-Anne Bawdon, who came to the Celebration Day opener at Fed Square, plus “six or seven” other events, said the Festival was a great way to meet new people and share stories.

“I’ve been to the past three Festivals, but this year’s event seemed to top the lot. Mind you my memory isn’t the best so I sometimes struggle to remember what happened last year,” she joked.

“There was just so much to see and do. And it’s just nice to have something for us oldies – it’s nice to know we’re not forgotten. I really enjoyed meeting new people and hearing their stories. I’ve even teed up a follow-up coffee with a couple I met.”

Julie-Anne’s sentiments were echoed by Lorna Philpott, who went to the Big Band Dance at Melbourne Town Hall.

“This was my first Festival, but I’ll be back next year – my husband and I had a ball,” she said.

“Having the free public transport helped a lot, too. We live in Ballarat so we don’t get to the city as much as we’d like.”

Liza Ng was also at the Big Band Dance, with dance partner Eddie. She said she loved the fact the Town Hall allowed so many people to dance in the same room.

“And it’s nice that people dress up in their ball gowns,” she said.

Not all the action was in the city, however. All 79 councils were involved and record numbers flocked to the 25 music concerts held in regional Victoria, featuring artists such as Athol Guy (The Seekers), Beatles tribute band Rubber Soul, 1960’s rockabilly star Lonnie Lee, Wendy Stapleton and James Blundell.

The Festival also provided an opportunity for reflection and discussion. Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour hosted six Conversation with the Commissioner events in metropolitan and rural Victoria.

These sessions provided an opportunity for seniors to voice their feelings on a range of topics, including what made them happy and how to remain socially connected as they grew older.