The Way They Whisper
In the first half of 2014, I spent four hours every Wednesday in the activity center of a nursing home. The center is open to the residents of the retirement home and twenty users still living in their own homes. I was there to help out, mostly with the four computers, but a lot of time was spent talking to the people and capturing images.
I had been looking forward to hearing their stories and I was not disappointed. One had been a circus artist. Another was born German but had married a Dane during WWII and moved to Denmark where her husband turned out to be a criminal. A third was quite content his wife through 75 years had died recently as now he need not ask permission to go out to dinner. And they all had tales to tell about growing up in hard working homes in a differently world.
This I had expected. What I had not expected was how old these people were. The man who valued his freedom was 98 and had only given up his car two years ago. The man in the image with the tie and a glass in his hand was also past 90. In fact, most of them were.
The vitality and will to live I found in the users of the center left me gaping in wonder. I was pretty sure none of them had read New Age books about being in the now but here they all were – being able to live a life worthy of living, day by day, even if they must know that very soon they must die.
It brought me to consider what is ‘old’ anyway? Do we grow old and decrepit because we expect to and thus program ourselves to live up to our own expectations? How many people die simply because they give up living? If the people I met, born in the early part of the 20’th Century and working hard all their lives, can be going strong at 98, might not the whole concept of aging be open to change?
I believe we are only beginning to scratch the surface of how long we can live if we feel good about it. My aim with this series is to show that life is not over at 90. There is joy, companionship, creativity and good times to be found way past the marker most of us envision earlier in life.