‘I feel absolutely amazing’: Centenarians celebrated through art

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‘I feel absolutely amazing’: Centenarians celebrated through art
‘I feel absolutely amazing’: Centenarians celebrated through art

There’s not much 109-year-old Catherina van der Linden hasn’t seen in her long life, but a portrait of herself is one thing.

Key points:

  • The portrait project has already rolled out in NSW, QLD and the ACT
  • It aims to break down negative stereotypes about ageing
  • Intergenerational programs can improve health outcomes and reduce loneliness

As she steps up to examine her likeness, she issues a small nod of approval.

“I feel absolutely amazing,” she says.

Ms van der Linden is among almost a hundred South Australians aged over 100, who have been painted by teenage artists across the state.

It’s part of a national portrait project launched by social art enterprise Embraced Inc that aims to bridge the generational divide and spark joy.

A chalk pencil drawing of an elderly woman with her hands up, smiling.

Portrait of 109-year-old Catherina van der Linden by Olympia Andrae

Creative director Rose Connors Dance said the Centenarian Portrait Project was beneficial for the artists and subjects alike.

“We’ve seen a lot of participants gain confidence, develop sensitive communication skills and understanding of the other age group.”

An oil painting of a 100 year old woman staring down the camera, with intense green eyes.

Portrait of Velta Ozols, 100,  by Tilda Byleveld, 16.

‘An amazing experience’

Most of the teenagers involved in the project had never met a 100-year-old, and said communication was often challenging.

They began the process by getting to know their subject through face-to-face meetings, video calls, sharing family photos, and even letter-writing.

Artist Skylah James, 16, said the process of depicting 101-year-old Barbara Morley allowed her to rethink some negative stereotypes about ageing.

“She’s so funny, and she’s expressed to me that just because you’re old that doesn’t mean you have to act that way,” she said.


A chalk pencil drawing of an elderly woman, wearing pink glasses and lipstick.

Barbara Morley, 101, was one of the first female taxi drivers in Melbourne.

“It’s amazing that two different generations can come together and create such an amazing piece as well as learn so much from each other.”

Fighting ageist stereotypes

Intergenerational programs are becoming an increasingly popular part of aged-care practices and systems around the world.

The benefits include reducing depression, alleviating loneliness and debunking ageist stereotypes, which can also improve the way an elderly person perceives themself.

“Ageism is a real issue in our community,” Ms Connors Dance said.

“It’s great at 100 to do something new, and to make a friend 85 years your junior is a pretty interesting experience.”

An elderly woman sits in a chair in a red shirt, pointing at the camera.

Intergenerational programs can reduce loneliness and promote learning.

The project has already been rolled out in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, with plans to expand to Tasmania and WA.

The exhibition in Adelaide will be open at the Torrens Parade Ground until the end of the month, after which the centenarians can take their portraits home.

Worker, this is your PCODE for proof: pw-323930f258d90104c25ae076519117fcca82c8aed29dd176d80e7e0954716d82
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