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Virginia Walker admires her portrait (top left) in the exhibition. Photo: supplied.

Uniting photo exhibition hopes to tackle ageism

A photography exhibition held in support of the EveryAge Counts campaign opened in Sydney this week. It asked attendees to take a pledge against ageism.

The exhibition, created by Uniting Aged Care in association with the Benevolent Society, features residents form Uniting’s Edina, Illowra and Ronald Coleman Lodge facilities. The series of pictures shows residents living well and asks them what they like best about growing old.

The idea came from leisure and wellness coordinator Irina Krasovitsky during discussions with one of Uniting’s residents.

“I found out he had a nephew who was a photographer. I thought how wonderful it would be if we could somehow manage to connect with the community through a series of photos which encouraged positive thinking about ageing,” she said.

“It was nice to do pictures of the aged people when there weren’t just shots of them slumped in chairs, which is what you quite often see,” said photographer John Marmaras.

“It was great to show their liveliness and intelligence.”

Local Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma attended the event and told Aged Care Insite that ageism needs to be tackled urgently.

“I really do believe this is one of the next frontiers of civil rights in Australia, elderly people, but also in the disability sector,” said Sharma.

“For both these groups we’ve had the expectation that they can’t have access to the same opportunities, the same quality of life or amenities as other Australians, and I think that attitude is slowly changing.”

Wentworth MP Dave Sharma takes the pledge against ageism. Photo: supplied.

Renee England, Uniting’s head of operations for Sydney Southeast said they hope this exhibition goes some way to changing these attitudes.

“We wanted to showcase that people who are in care still have lives to live. Individually, in a group or in the community, they can still contribute.”

Freedom to do and say what they please was a common theme for those residents featured in the exhibition.

“As I get older it is amazing to be free to say what I think, and to do so sincerely,” said resident Carol McMullen.

Clive, 79, said: “I’m now in a different time in my life. I am free to do what I like and I enjoy that freedom.”

Virginia, 81, said much the same and she also likes to look back fondly on memories of her travelling days. She carries a doll with her that reminds her of her trips to Mexico and Cuba in the 80s.

“There were people dancing and dressed in beautiful clothes and I wanted to be part of it. It’s a wonderful memory to have,” she said.

Saava, 84, said she is a more positive person as she ages and appreciates life more.

“I sing and dance as I wish and make the most of every moment. You never know when it will end.”

When asked how he feels about ageing, Sharma said being surrounded by family is important to him along with the wisdom getting older brings. However, as a politician, he doesn’t enjoy the freedom of speech the Uniting residents do.

“As a parliamentarian you rarely get to say what you want to,” he said with a laugh.

The EveryAge campaign was launched over 12 months ago to show how we value older Australians and move away from the idea that they are a “drag on society”, according to Benevolent Society CEO Jo Toohey.

“My grandmother used to tell me that she looked in the mirror when she was 70 and she saw the face of a 25-year-old. And she felt like she was 25, so why did people see her as some old decrepit 70-year-old who didn’t like to have a good time, a few drink with her friends, a laugh and the occasional sneaky cigarette down the back shed if she wanted.

“For me, ageing is about being able to be yourself,” she said.

The exhibition is on at the Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club in Bondi Junction until Saturday August 10.

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