Drawing experiences of ageing: Lotte residential care home, Copenhagen
Posted Jan 17 2011 4:00am
Upon arrival at Lotte residential care home on 7th December, I was greeted with the trappings of a party. The dining room had been recently decorated with candles and baubles for Christmas and the tables were set with Danish flags and napkins in honour of a resident’s birthday.
A chair was placed for me at a table. I sat next to Ingrid and opposite Inge and Nis. I had met Nis the previous week but he had no memory of me. He was very pleased to talk and introduced Inge to me as his fiancée. Ingrid remembered me but did not recollect that I had drawn her. She seemed very pleased to see the drawing of herself when I showed it to her.
After eating together, I chose to depict Inge and Nis sitting next to each other in one drawing. Inge was very elegant and beautiful. Her silver hair still had a luster and a stylish wave. She wore a black fur sleeveless body warmer and a shirt with fashionable wide collar and cuffs. Strings of large beads and a set of smaller beads adorned her neck. Her mottled discoloured arms denote cellulitis but her hands did not seem to have signs of arthritis. She is 100 years old.
Nis always sits next to Inge. His adoration of her was obvious and on the day of my visit he was very proud to show her off to me. Nis who is 97, boasted about Inge’s age. He was an architect and was keen to look at my drawings. Every time I looked at Nis to draw him, he would make a funny face at me and chuckle. His high arching eyebrows betrayed his cheeky nature and his large cheeks became lost in the large ribbed neck of his cosy Nordic sweater.
They ate their meals; Nis had a special one as he is a vegetarian. They had a glass of wine and then enjoyed birthday cake and coffee. Whilst both were rather hard of hearing they were clear and articulate.
After drawing Nis and Inge I drew Ruth. She had wanted me to draw her for the last couple of weeks. She is a youngster for Lotte, a mere 78 years old and had been there for 4 years. She is wheelchair bound and has restricted use in her right side, almost none on her left side and has problems speaking clearly but her intentions are always clear. Determined to perform the tasks of eating and drinking for herself as much as possible, Ruth was keen to participate.
Before we began she made a request, that I wait until someone came with her false teeth. It was very touching that she wanted to look her best for the drawing. She spent as much time as she could grinning at me, smiling as if for the camera but trying to sustain it through the long drawn out session. Her face is small and her petite body seemed to be even smaller in the big wheelchair she uses. Ruth’s already large eyes were enlarged through the thick lenses of her glasses and they gazed at me, smiling at me throughout the time I drew.
I returned to Lotte on 12th January. I sat with Karen. She was a petite lady aged 97 with her white hair cut into a smart bob style. She had fallen before Christmas and gashed her forehead and had required 16 stitches but seemed to be quite happy that it was healing well. Lines were deeply etched around her cheeks and eyes and her strong nose seemed disproportionate to her small delicate face and large eyes. Her mouth was in constant flux, never resting and never maintaining the same position for long.
She received a letter from her daughter, an artist living in California and only needed a little help to open the envelope. She was keen to show me a photo of her because I am an artist too. Sitting in her cosy cream cardigan she seemed very gentle but very able. Her pride in her daughter’s work was clear and her enjoyment of being drawn was obvious.