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Centenarian portrait exhibition smashes ageism myths

Age Discrimination
Teenage artist seated next to her centenarian who is the subject of her portrait
Content type: Media Release

A new portrait exhibition opening this weekend has been lauded for dismantling ageist stereotypes and fostering strong connections between teenagers and centenarians by the Age Discrimination Commissioner, The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO.

The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers is an ambitious 7-year long, nation-wide portrait project of teenage artists painting people aged 100 years or older. Dr Patterson has been a proud supporter of the project since its inception.

According to the World Health Organisation, some of the most effective ways to counteract ageism are education and intergenerational projects, and the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers has both elements.

Arguably the nation’s most extensive intergenerational arts initiative, the project involved 465 teenage artists who were matched with 465 centenarians, for an exchange beyond the canvas that created not just beautiful artworks, but meaningful connections spanning 80-90 years or more.

Inspired and led by Rose Connors Dance, the Creative Director of Embraced Inc, the project had exhibitions in every state throughout Australia before this final six-week exhibition, 100 Canberra, being hosted at the Belconnen Arts Centre from 19 May – 2 July.

Ms Connors Dance said she designed the project to promote understanding and break down age-related stereotypes through art and the sharing of stories by participants.

“We brought members of the community together who otherwise may never have met. It’s been a privilege to expand the initiative over the past seven years and very heart-warming to revisit portraits from the whole journey, which feels like reuniting with old friends,” she said.

Dr Patterson has met many of the participants and heard their stories which she says highlights not only the diversity of younger and older people but also the ways in which they are alike and relate.

“Discrimination is based on pitting one side against another or others. Age discrimination can affect both young and old and can have devastating impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and self-esteem,” she said.

“We know ageism is a major factor which prevents fair and equal treatment in gaining and keeping jobs, in receiving human-centred aged care, in the way older people are sometimes treated by family members resulting in elder abuse, and simply in the way society may not support people to age positively instead of pitching it as a time we all decline.

“This project has sparked magical relationships, understanding and strong bonds. 100 Canberra is a fitting finale of this beautiful project. It highlights the rich tapestry of life in Australia, not only through the amazing artworks, but the stories uncovered by connecting younger and older people.

“I congratulate Rose, the supporters of the project and of course the participants and their families for their generosity of spirit, talent and commitment. I encourage you to think of the stories behind the portraits and if you can, come to see this wonderful exhibition.”

The exhibition will be virtually opened by Bree Pickering, Director, National Portrait Gallery of Australia on Saturday, 20 May, at 2pm.

More information on the project.

Media contacts: For interviews with the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Ph: 0457 281 897 or E:

For interviews with Rose Connors Dance – Contact littlelion PR: Ph: 08 8121 7717 - Avalon Scott 0481 770 584 or E: