Artist Statement - Beryl Woodrow (May 2014)
My interest in "Aging in Place" began as a documentary photography project at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2012. I began photographing my neighbours, Marg, 89, and Don, 93, who have lived in their home for 53 years. With health issues and accommodation challenges that are a natural part of aging, I was interested in exploring through photography how elder couples are able to maintain their independence in their own home and how they establish meaning in their lives. My experience with Marg and Don was both inspiring and uplifting, eschewing all stereotypes and as a result has led me to continue photographing elder couples as opportunity arises.
I have photographed five couples to date who have generously allowed me into their homes and have opened themselves up to conversations about health and family, about the their past and present and about all things important to them.
Each story is different but the general themes remain the same: maintaining a positive attitude, having a social network, keeping a sense of humor, adjusting to a changing identity, connecting with family, being resourceful, acknowledging loss, dealing with medical issues and the challenges of mobility, being engaged in daily activities and being curious about the world.
Sam and Margaret, Edmonton, 2013 - Sam, 91, and Margaret, 88, have been married for 68 years. They have lived in their condo for the past 17 years. A print of a painting that takes centre stage above their sofa was given to them by a relative. It reminds Margaret of a Psalm that she says she finds comforting.
Sam and Margaret, Edmonton, 2013 - Sam, talks to their great-grandkids over the phone while Margaret, enjoying a private joke with her niece, sets the table for dinner. She has been making meals everyday for the 68 years of their marriage. Sam and Margaret drive their PT Cruiser to play the horse races, to shop for groceries and to participate in services at their synagogue among many other activities but it is the telephone that links them to their 3 children, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends each day.
Bernice and Sparky, Edmonton, 2013 - Bernice, 82 and Sparky, 86, have been married for 54 years and have 2 children and 2 grand children. They have lived in the same home for 52 years. At the end of 2013, they moved into a condo to be closer to amenities. Bernice speaks about how difficult that was for her to leave her neighbours, to sell and give away so much of their belongings that were steeped in memory and to leave a home they loved.
Sparky, Edmonton, 2013 - Sparky sits while he awaits a friend to pick him up for their weekly coffee. He has been getting together with the same buddies for decades. Sparkie had to give up a promising career in hockey and baseball when he contacted Multiple Sclerosis in his late 20's but his life continued to be filled with colour working and travelling with the Royal American Circus, becoming a boxing and wrestling promoter, and developing an organization to support the disabled.
Toto and Mort, Calgary, 2013 - Toto, 83, and Mort, 87, have been married for 67 years and have 2 children and 5 grandchildren. The stuffed animals they display on their sofa represent comforting and fond memories. Both are very social. They often go out for dinner or have long conversations over the phone with friends.
Mort, Calgary, 2013 - Mort dons his cowboy hat decorated with pins from past Calgary Stampedes, The Calgary Stampede is an annual event they have been attending for as long as they can remember.
Shirle and Fred, West Vancouver, 2013 - Shirle, 90 and Fred, 91, have been married for 34 years. They left a large home on a quarter of an acre in Surrey that housed Fred's extensive train city, a garden where they grew peanuts, apples, and vegetables, and Shirle's studio where she painted fulltime, for a condominium overlooking the ocean that is easier to manage, closer to their synagogue and near all amenities.
Shirle, West Vancouver, 2013 - Shirle stands in front of one of her paintings which was inspired by her interest in the extraterrestrial. She has co written books on the topic of her contact and has lectured extensively. She continues to keep connected with the community through email and the Internet.