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Bridging age divides with art

Discrimination Age Discrimination

What does life look like at 100?  Who are Sydney’s oldest residents? And what can they tell us about life and aging?

On International Day of Older Persons, Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, is proud to launch the exhibition ‘100: a celebration of Sydney’s oldest residents,’ an art project that breaks down intergenerational boundaries.

The exhibition is the product of the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers.  Led by Victorian College of the Arts graduate Rose Connors Dance, the project brought together 100 teenagers to paint the portraits of 100 of Sydney's centenarians.

“The Centenarian Project is an intergenerational arts initiative that brings together members of the community who might otherwise never cross paths, breaking down loneliness and negative aging stigma,” Ms Connors Dance said.

“I’ve seen how the friendships that develop between artist and subject, teenager and centenarian, can give both sides an enormous sense of understanding, purpose and self-esteem.

“Many young people have very limited experience with senior citizens, which leads to a stereotyped view about ageing. Through this experience they come in contact with at least one older person, which can change their understanding of life and ageing in unexpected ways.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, said intergenerational relationships and understanding were crucial to reducing ageism.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s ‘Fact or Fiction: Stereotypes of Older Australians Research Report 2013’ found widespread negative misconceptions about older people. 

“When young Australians spend time with older members of our community, these relationships lead to increased understanding and reduced misconceptions that can lead to ageism in our community,” Dr Patterson said.

“As our life expectancy continues to grow, it is also important for young people to have an understanding of the likelihood that they may live a 100 year life and to get a sense of how to prepare for that.”

There were 3500 centenarians in Australia in 2016, according to the Census, compared to just 122 in 1975.  The Australian Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report estimated there would be 40,000 people aged over 100 by 2055.

The exhibition is at The Studio in Roseberry from  September 29 to October 12.

Photograph: Arthur Jeffrey with Cici Hong. Arthur is 101 years old and Cici is a first year art student at the National Art School. By Rose Connors Dance.

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