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What It Feels Like to Grow Older"




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

© 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 grace."

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