The "What It Feels Like To Grow Older" project, which began in 1994,
is a fifty-four foot movable mural and thirty minute video documentary
co-produced by WLRN-TV. This inter-generational project involving well
over 350 senior citizens (more than 700 were interviewed) and approximately
50 youngsters, answers the question, "What does it feel like to grow
older?" in art form. "What It Feels Like To Grow Older" is a collaboration
among senior citizens ranging in age from 50 to 106 and children, ages
10 to 14.
As part of this project, the youngsters experienced a session of sensitivity
training regarding the degenerative aging process before being brought
together with the seniors to collaborate on the artwork, poetry and stories.
This was captured by WLRN-TV on a half-hour documentary that has been
distributed to PBS stations around the country. On the video, one of the
young participants, upon completion of the project, stated that "...
he learned something very important, and that is seniors are people too,
and you mustn't disrespect your elders." The Commissioner of Chicago
Department of Aging is using the film to train his staff that work directly
with the 443,000 senior citizens living in Chicago.
This mural contains inspirational drawings and messages from outstanding
seniors such as Broadway Director George Abbott who, at age 106 claimed,
"I didn't get old until I was over 100; then 'old-man-itis' set in;"
and actor George Burns who, at 98, said "You can't help getting older,
but you never have to get old." This project, by creating an atmosphere
where the seniors maintained their dignity while using their wisdom and
creative talents to help others, provided an opportunity for the coming
together of youngsters and seniors to bridge the age gap. It's poignant
message to the Baby Boomer generation is to "Stop and smell the flowers,
now, before it's too late."
This project was displayed at The White House Conference on Aging, National
Learning Center's Capital Children's Museum, and National Headquarters
of AARP, National Council of Senior Citizens' Legislative Conference (Washington,
D.C.); Theater of the Performing Arts, Stephen P. Clark Center, and the
Governor's Conference on Aging (Miami, FL). The video has been aired on
WLRN-Channel 17 (Miami) several times and is being distributed nationally
on PBS stations. The Miami Herald featured this project in a front page
story with photo. The project was featured in The Washington Post, the
New York Daily News, AARP's Modern Maturity Magazine and Selecta Magazine.
For additional information about this project, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS"
© 1995 Dena Stewart
As I approached my middle age, I thought about my past; The things I
did, and did again. How long would it all last?
I want my future to be bright; healthy and productive. So I went straight
to great-grandma, who's honest and constructive.
I knew she'd have the answers to alleviate my dread of what it feels
like to grow old. And this is what she said:
"We are placed on this earth to experience all; to reach for the sky,
to get up when we fall. To love and to nurture, and many times, lose.
To know right from wrong and which path to choose.
The golden years is the time to reflect and pass on old values, which
youth will reject - 'cause children have their time to learn and to hope,
and seniors have wisdom to help them to cope.
But you in the middle with passions and powers, stop now
and enjoy the scent of the flowers. Exercise, eat right, to yourself be
true. Commit to each moment, and broaden your view. Make changes where
needed, accept what you face. So when you're a senior, you'll be one with
I promised myself I would heed her advice. I would pace what I do, and
to others, be nice. So when in my 90s I'm asked how I feel, I could smile
and say, "aging is no big deal."
I can't see, I can't hear, I can't walk, and the food
I eat tastes lousy. I have bursitis, arthritis and hemorrhoids ... Other
than that, I have no complaints.
Bernie G., age 86
To what do I attribute my longevity? Breathing.
Henny Y., age 82
I am not growing older, I am growing bolder. If something
doesn't work one way, I'll try another way.
Ruth K., Senior Citizen
To be old makes you feel like you're inside a straitjacket.
It makes your eyes feel bad. It makes your body ache. Your feet start
to feel like there's broken glass in your shoes.
Antonio B., age 13