The Elderly in London

April 23, 2010

I finally started working again on my project If you are lucky you get old. But this time here in the UK. Yesterday I had a nice day at the senior centre in Southwark in London. See below Cathy and Hilda who I met there.

© Freya Najade

But I think seniors centres are in the UK much different than in the U.S. While it seems that the elderly in the U.S. show there up in order to socialize and meet others whilst they are still very active, I feel here in London the elderly mostly seek them out when they already need a little bit of care and they wish to get a warm meal.

I have heard I should go to Eastbourne, which is the Palm Springs of the UK. Let’s see.

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I wonder I didn’t come earlier across Katrin Trautner’s work of older people having sex. It’s definitely a very interesting body of work and good for me to keep in mind.

“This work seeks to provide an insight into an aspect of everyday life to which a blind eye is generally turned. It endeavours to illustrate one of the manifold aspects of normal life experience.”

Morgenliebe

© Katrin Trautner

Tomorrow our exhibition will come down. Time to share my book and thoughts about my project “If you are lucky, you get old”.

In August I mentioned that I made the decision to do a project about elderly gays, since I felt nobody really thought of old people as being homosexual. But also in general in my surroundings and every day life old people seemed to be invisible. I couldn’t feel their presence although I knew that they were somewhere there. Thinking of them or of myself becoming old made me worried and pitiful. Wrinkles, disease and decay came to mind. What actually happened to the times when the old were the wise and taught the young about life? Having so little knowledge about the elderly, I went out to retirement communities in the U.S. to find out more. First I went to a gay retirement home in Portland. After spending a week there I travelled to Palm Springs where I stayed for around 5 weeks meeting old people in senior centres.

To my surprise, the elderly I met were not just proud of their age and the fact that they made it that far in life, they were also still falling in love and breaking up. They were overcoming their lifetime partner’s death, living out their erotic fantasies or dealing with the loss of their sexual desire. Talking to them showed me that inner growths is ever lasting and that humans even above the age of seventy continue to love, suffer, long, dream and have sexual feelings.

In my project ‘If you are lucky, you get old’, I decided finally to capture encounters with the elderly and to tell stories of those I spent time with. To not create just another segregated and enclosed group I eventually decided to open the project up and to focus on both straight and queer seniors. Here you can have a look inside the book. I am pretty happy with it to be honest.

Final Show

December 17, 2009

The opening of our show was really fun. Many people came to see our work and to celebrate the end of our Masters. For those, who couldn’t make it have a look below. You can still go and check it out, the show is on until the 15.01.2010.

A Foretaste

October 19, 2009

After disappearing for a couple of weeks, I am finally back in London! While working in the U.S. on my project about the elderly, I couldn’t bring myself to post something new. I stayed mainly in Palm Springs, where I had to face 46 degrees! Yes, I learnt my lesson about doing research!

Besides sweating and swearing, I met the nicest old people: Rae, Dennis, Thelma, Chris and others. I am planning to  make a book, in which I would like to tell their stories and share what they taught me:

Which is for instance that life even in an old age still can be complex and rich. You love, suffer, long, dream and have sexual feelings until you die. It doesn’t matter if you are 30, 50, 70 or 80 years old.

But more about that later. For now you can find below a tiny foretaste.

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Rae, 80

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Dennis, 76

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Thelma, 82

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Chris, 70 and John, 75

Gay and Lesbian Elderly

August 6, 2009

My new project will be about gay and lesbian seniors. There exists so little photography about the elderly in general and of gay and lesbian elderly there are hardly no pictures at all. With my project I attempt to make this group, which is mostly unvisible visible.

Richard Renaldi did some nice work about this topic: http://www.renaldi.com/portfolio/elderly1.html:

Roy and William john and fred

And I also love the work of Naomi Harris, who documented the last hotel in South Beach that catered to senior citizens. The project, called “Haddon Hall Hotel ” received The International Prize for Young Photojournalism. I feel her pictures are humorous but also sensitive. Check it out on her hompage: http://www.naomiharris.com

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Naomi Harris 2

Mekka Bingo

July 9, 2009

I went the other day to a Bingo Parlour in Hackney, not far away from where I live. In the parlour I met Cathlene, who is 91 and comes here since 40 years to gamble. While Cathlene used to go with friends in the past, her daughter  takes her now every weekend. After our meeting, I decided to spend one day with Cathlene on a Sunday bingo night to see what it is all about.

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