We are the new disappeared: people over 50 years of age should not be seen or heard. Is it any wonder we are encouraged to empty our pockets for products and services that promise to make the years vanish?
Which is why discovering The Face Age Project was like entering a different dimension. This new exhibit – currently on display at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) – helps us step outside all that and take a fresh if not refreshing look at what it means to grow older.
Face Age is a multi-media installation. Walking into the space, visitors find themselves between screens filled with larger-than-life faces of university students and older citizens. The people on screen are having conversations about their feelings and perceptions of aging and, as they talk, we see their faces change – ‘face aging technology’ is used to age the young people and peel away the years of the elders. (Photo taken by UNCW’s Katherine Freshwater.)
We asked Andy Belser, 51, chair of UNCW’s Theatre department, what inspired the concept. “I’ve been interested in the taboos of aging all my life,” he says. “As I grew older, I was ready to create something.”
By happy accident, he met Karl Ricanek, director of the Face Aging Group at the university, which creates computer models of aging faces for use in criminology. A second chance encounter, this time with Dave Monahan of UNCW’s Film Studies department, and a conversation about Monahan’s documentaries, helped the idea take shape. “I imagined the pilot installation in crisp detail,” Belser told us. Others quickly came on board from across the university, including Gerontology’s Ellie Covan, and Brenda Pavil from the Nursing department.
How did participants respond to being asked to be part of the project? Belser says all of them – whether the under-25 Theatre major undergraduates or the over-70 subjects from the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute – were apprehensive at first about what might happen, yet as the process got underway, each soon revealed vulnerable parts of themselves. Not surprisingly, both Face Age participants and visitors to the exhibit report being deeply moved by the experience. “It seems to be touching people from very different age groups in very emotional ways,” Belser says.
Face Age runs until April 22. There are plans for a traveling installation, a large-scale, live multi-media tour, a website, a documentary, and published research. Yet, listening to Belser, it’s clear the real outcome may be much deeper. “I can’t help but wonder … if we made a habit of this sort of honest look at aging, how might our culture change?”
Lasting image: We end this week’s post with yet another unique view of aging – a clip by filmmaker Lina Plioplyte and photographer Ari Seth Cohen (please click on link to see video.) Cohen’s Advanced Style blog was inspired by his grandmother’s inimitable sense of style and it’s become a hugely popular ode to the chic confidence of New Yorkers over the age of 60. His first book, Advanced Style, will be released in May.
Pulse postscript: Reporter Judy Steed’s ‘Turning Point’ series continues in the Toronto Star newspaper until the end of June. She’s also blogging each day – sharing updates of the 10 people whose midlife reinvention she’s following, as well as ideas and information that will help your own journey.
We’re launching our first 12-week course! If you haven’t already ordered your copy of RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50, there’s still time. We’d love you to be part of this virtual Ripe Circle.
How’s your Ripe Circle coming along?
We’ve been talking about how important Ripe Circles are and how to pull one together (lots of readers, for instance, are sharing Pulse and RIPE with their book clubs).
Here’s a tip. Whether you intend to become a Ripe Master (continue in the same field) or a Ripe Pathfinder (head out in a new direction), it’s important for your Ripe Circle or support group to include some people who have the same goal. Supportive is good; understanding exactly what you’re talking about is even better. So, if you think you want to become an entrepreneur, add someone who’s headed in the same direction to your circle. Or better still, someone who’s already an entrepreneur and understands the unique challenges of starting a new venture.
Keep your finger on the pulse. There’s a sign-up option in the right-hand column of this page. (Or visit juliamoulden.com and send us an email.)
Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.