by Rose Connors Dance
Frau M, 85
‘Yes, yes, yes. I was there.’ (Dresden, 1945.) She pauses. ‘Tea?’ Her hand shakes as she places a steaming glass on the bench. ‘Speak with your mouth,’ she barks. ‘More forward.’ She glares at me intently while correcting my pronunciation. One would not suspect her failing eyes. She tells me of her post-1989 travels to Australia and reveals, somewhere in between, her disdain for women of West German decent.
It’s mid-2012 – I’m 23, living abroad, and it dawns on me: I’ve spent six months in this new city, but my world has been age-segregated. It’s a strange thought. Half a year of new friends, house concerts and an internship, and all my interactions have been with people 35 and under.
I start thinking about this more deeply. How can I get a true understanding of this place when I’m only spending time with one demographic? These thoughts are concerning; a different perspective is essential.
An online search leads me to a buddy program that brings generations together. I sign up. Shortly after, my weekly visits to Frau M begin. We drink tea, discuss the world and our travels, and slowly, with time, these weekly visits become memorable history lessons, seasoned with a spattering of home-grown wisdom.
This experience prompted me to question the lack of intergenerational contact in our modern-day western societies and provoked me to do something about it. It was from this experience that the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers was born. The project brings generations together, while celebrating, profiling and honouring our local elders via the talents of young local artists.
The 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival, in association with Arcare, hosted the project’s first large-scale realisation. The exhibition, 100: A Celebration of Melbourne’s Oldest Residents, is the culmination of a life-affirming intergenerational process. As part of the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers, 100 centenarians from across 60 Melbourne suburbs were introduced to 100 skilled young artists and began exchanges and conversations that led to the creation of 100 portraits of 100-year-olds.
A huge thanks goes to our major sponsor Arcare for their belief in this project and their on-going support throughout its creation.