The standard images are familiar: A grandma in a rocking chair, wistfully turning the pages of a photo album; retirees with time on their hands, spinning yarns at the donut shop about past glories.
But what are real people over 70 up to these days? We wanted to find out.
I photographed and Cynthia Bix interviewed twelve men and women, ranging in age from 70 to 96, all of whom are members of Ashby Village. Turns out, those standard images are seriously in need of an update.
The people we met continually surprised us. "I'm a party girl!" exclaimed Margie, the 96-year-old. Liz, a once-and-future protester, aged 87, told us that although she couldn't tolerate getting arrested anymore (handcuffs hurt too much), she still attends protests using her walker. At 76, Peter sometimes needs a wheelchair, but that doesn't stop him from shooting photos, flexing his well-honed journalistic muscles, and traveling to Paris. Ninety-three-year old Jeanne regularly drives herself to UC Berkeley to teach a class in music cognition. You get the idea.
Meeting and talking with the people featured in this exhibition has been surprising, revealing, funny, thought provoking, and absolutely delightful. Each of them is a vibrant, highly individual spirit. Each is active in his or her particular way, be it creative, organizational, spiritual, physical, or social. None of them spend much time looking back - they're looking ahead with enthusiasm, curiosity, and optimism.
Not only do these people inspire us to reframe our image of what it means to be old, but they're also models of how to live well at any age. As painter Lisa says, "I think we have to do things with gusto!"
Buck Institute for Research on Aging - Novato, CA (2019)
Peninsula Library - Rolling Hills Estates, CA (2019)
Corte Madera Library - Corte Madera, CA (2018)
Doe Library at UC Berkeley - Berkeley, CA (2018)
Ashby Village - Berkeley, CA (2017)
Berkeley Public Library North Branch - Berkeley, CA (2017)
Art Gallery at the Orinda Library - Orinda, CA (2021)