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Drawing experiences of ageing: Lotte residential care home, Copenhagen, 24 November 2010

Posted Dec 01 2010 3:10am

Visiting Lotte residential care home is always an experience. The first thing you notice upon entering is there are no signs warning you of something or pictograms and ideograms giving instructions. The next thing you notice is the lack of plastic. No carers in wipe down aprons, no wipe clean table clothes, plastic beakers or bibs. The tables have tablecloths, the residents have lunch as anyone would, using normal cutlery and china plates and they have beer or wine with their meals. This is not an institutionalized feeling care home.

My first session of drawing there was on November 24th. After sitting and speaking with the delightful Nis who was an architect responsible for the main design around Rådhuspladsen, I sat next to Ingrid as we all played Bingo (Danish: Banko). Ingrid is 96. I had noticed her on my first visit because she wore a bright red, star shaped hair slide.

Ingrid was again wearing her star shaped hair slide. She was curious about my large hooped earrings and I pointed out when I am 96 I will probably still be wearing them. Her haircut was in a very smart bob style, which fell forward as she leaned over her cards to place buttons on the numbers being called. She has arthritis in her hands and the joints were swollen and enlarged, pulling the surrounding flesh taught across her hands. The hair caught up in her slide fell in a layer shorter than the rest of her hair and the tip of one arm of the star was partially obscured by the white strands.

Ingrid24112010

I sat next to her; she was at the head of the table concentrating on her game, I sat on her right. I watched her and drew her while she was engaged in her activity. Several times she checked with a carer on her left which number were being called, just to be sure she had heard correctly. Once in a while she looked up and caught my eye. She smiled and shook her head. She was surprised and bemused that I was looking at her so intensely. She did not think she would be very interesting to draw.

She was. There were a great number of deep wrinkles on her face. Her brow and forehead had lines so deep they almost seemed to separate areas of her skin. Carved like plots of farrowed land. Shapes formed under her eyebrows and around the top of her nose and the deep lines etched by her lips formed long flowing crevasses. The teardrop droop of her jowl rested low and the extra flesh under her chin swept down by her neck. The shawl thrown around her shoulders had a fringe and was knotted at her sternum.

I asked her what career she had been in. She replied she was nothing special, just an ordinary person who never did anything special, just looked after the home and raised her children. That’s a pretty special thing in my opinion.

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