Potential theme – Ageing

For a while now I’ve been thinking about ageing or memory as a potential theme for my design project for A Creative Approach, and basically because of an emotional connection I am being drawn towards Ageing.

This is my mother at the Art Gallery last weekend. I’m not really thinking of her stage of ageing. Mum’s in her eighties, is careful of what she eats, makes sure there’s a Physical, Mental and Social element in every day, is aware of and preparing for what may be in the future but is fiercely making the most of every moment. She has led and continues to lead an adventurous and independent life and I am enormously proud of her and her achievements. When this photo was taken we had just finished recording the first installment of the Oral History she wants to make, starting at age 11, sitting in a chapel in Weymouth when a man came in with a note for the preacher – England was at war.

In the background is Ben Quilty’s portrait of Margaret Olley, another fierce and independent woman.

Earlier that day we came across a work by Ron Mueck. It totally stopped me in my tracks.

I’ve included the information plaque because I think it describes the work beautifully.

This is an amazing, hyper-realistic work, perhaps two-thirds life size and looking even smaller in the large gallery space.

The sense of vulnerability and frailty is one part of what is concerning me.

This is the photo that really bothers me. It’s the window of a shared room in a nursing home, the home for over two years of a woman I know and occasionally visit. She is frail, vulnerable, alert, intelligent, trapped, scared, in pain. She used to be proud and independent in a quiet but determined way. Widowed as a young woman, she has raised her children alone. Now she is in a system that in the name of protecting her has stripped her of almost everything. Virtually everyone involved – family, nursing home staff, bureaucrats, whoever – will say in honesty that they are doing their best to care for her but the result is horrendous. She loves that window, the light, the view. She loves her family too, but she is ready to go.

I don’t know whether Nancy will be my focus (that’s not her real name, but obviously I’ll do my best not to identify her, her relatives or the nursing home). It’s more around loss of choice and personal control, physical restriction – for example see this article (I’m right to go, just don’t wake me by Mark Metherell accessed May 11, 2012) about people who have “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on their chest. I’m not sure how much I will blog about this, as it could be regarded as political and divisive which is not my intention. I’m not sure what my feelings are, beyond anger and pity, and I certainly don’t have any answers just lots of questions. I would like to learn and think more about this, to find a way to express myself in a way that is thought-provoking and not unduly offensive. I guess this is a toe in the water.

14 Responses to “Potential theme – Ageing”


  1. 1 penmcam June 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Brave idea – could be an emotional journey, but worthwhile.

  2. 3 Susan D June 5, 2012 at 12:48 am

    I can so identify with this. My dear Mum passed away in October 2010. She’d not been in the best of health for a few years but the last 6 months where hard, she had pneumonia 3 times and the 2nd time they said she had single organ shut down (lungs) my brother and I didn’t think she would make it through the night but she amazed us and pulled through. Her quality of life wasn’t the same though and it was so hard to see her suffer. I vowed though that she would never go in to a nursing home even if I had to go without sleep to care for her and thankfully it was a promise I kept to.

    • 4 fibresofbeing June 6, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you for writing. It’s such a difficult and complex thing, how to care, how to deal with being helpless. I know I can’t fully understand, as both my parents are alive and doing well all things considered. I think knowing you did your best must help a bit. I know Nancy’s family are doing their best in a challenging situation.

  3. 5 Claire B June 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Very confronting, Judy. My 88 year old Dad is looking after my 90 year old Mum in their own home while I live half a world away. She is slowly declining into dementia and I am helpless to do much but listen on the phone to my father describing his day with her. I can only see it getting worse with nursing home options having to be looked at down the track.
    Claire.

    • 6 fibresofbeing June 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      O Claire, what a hard path.
      I know my mother found it very difficult, here in Sydney and her parents in England. I think she still feels it, and feels guilty that her sister bore the brunt of caring for them. I think we all have regrets, all have to face that there are limits to what we can do. If we do our best it has to be enough, even though we wish we could do so much more.

  4. 7 Louisa June 6, 2012 at 12:05 am

    The old woman in the bed totally reminded me of my mom! I would have stopped in my tracks too.

    Not all nursing homes are the evil that is often portrayed. My mom spent over 2 years in an active and caring facility before she passed away from vascular dementia at 93. I could not have cared for her myself but had a great relationship with the kind director and staff at the home. It wasn’t perfect of course (nothing is) but they did their best for her. A lot better than I could have done! They had equipment and skills that I don’t possess which left me free to spend quality time visiting with my mom without worry (beyond my normal concern anyway). And yes, I had to sign her DNR forms which were respected at the end.

    • 8 fibresofbeing June 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      Hi Louisa

      I’ve read some horror stories but I don’t have any argument with Nancy’s nursing home. I know her family put a lot of effort into finding the best place they could. One of her children had been her carer, living at her home, but eventually he couldn’t manage. The nursing home is purpose built, is well maintained, has trained staff – a standard mix of people, some deeply caring, some just doing a job. There just isn’t enough money, enough staff, to be able to do all you’d like. The anger I mentioned in my post is related to some wider issues that I haven’t gone in to.

      I’m glad you were able to find a place you had confidence in. As you say, you made the choice that in your particular circumstances gave the best outcome possible, however imperfect.

  5. 9 Mo Crow June 21, 2012 at 5:34 am

    I read a post a few months ago about an elderly father in a bleak nursing home who was living mostly in a fugue state for weeks on end & yet, just when his life seemed at the most hopeless, he roused for a few minutes and said to his daughter, “It’s a beautiful life” and then went back to his dreaming…


  1. 1 Nancy’s story « Fibres of Being Trackback on June 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm
  2. 2 Project 10 Stage 3 – part 3 « Fibres of Being Trackback on January 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm
  3. 3 Separate theme page | Fibres of Being Trackback on May 2, 2013 at 11:34 am
  4. 4 UA1-WA:P4-p4-Research Point: Recent figure sculptures | Fibres of Being Trackback on June 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm

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In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info fibresofbeing.wordpress.com

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