During the workshops, everyone could express and share their ideas with children.
Photo: Luxembourg Red Cross
When groups of seniors, children and volunteers met last autumn, no one could have predicted that life changing friendships would begin. Over two years, the Red Cross will share these intergenerational moments across Luxembourg through its “Iris” photo exhibition, shedding new light on stereotypes.
Since its creation in 2012, Iris has welcomed and accompanied numerous people touched by loneliness, with a majority of them being the elderly. To raise awareness about the prevention of social isolation, the Iris service has launched an artistic project honouring seniors who are too often affected by this problem. “We use art as a tool to integrate the beings who are vulnerable," Luxembourg Red Cross mission manager, Cécilia Acevedo Fuchs, told Delano.
The project began last September when groups of children from the maison relais in Wahl, Lintgen and Leudelange, as well as from the Adam Roberti Integrated School, the technical school of Lallange, and the children of Iris volunteers, and refugees took the time to reflect on the elderly's place in society and their position as seniors in their family or school. During these meetings, children took part in workshops where they were asked how they imagine themselves at 80 years old, walked with wooden sticks, wore glasses that simulate illnesses that affect older people, and experience what it is like to not be able to eat on their own. “Following these meetings, some of the children were committed to visiting older people,” Acevedo Fuchs said.
More than a means of educating young people about the elderly, these workshops were the opportunity for some of Iris’s 70 beneficiaries to share their story. “These workshops showed the young generation that everyone has a story and that everyone can contribute to society,” explained Acevedo Fuchs. Some of the elderly have families who do not spend enough time with them. “In our society elderly are isolated, families are not listening. They are attentive to health but not the mind,” Acevedo Fuchs said.
Photographers Jessica Theis, Olivier Minaire, Patrick Galbats, and Janine Unsen captured these timeless moments, resulting in a series of 12 photos to which children have contributed the captions. These photos were first presented to groups of mayors and dignitaries on 5 July in Mondorf-Les-Bains, where they created a real buzz. “On the opening exhibition, we received many unsolicited applications. The project really revived an interest in volunteering,” Acevedo Fuchs said. “The kids invited their family and it created amazing networks and links because the families came with the elderly, who were well received, and were the cynosure of all eyes.”
The outdoor photographic exhibition is itinerant so that it is visible to all and will last two years. “The photos are visible in public places. With ads with models everywhere and images that arrive to us from all sides, we thought, 'why not share great images with our beneficiaries and their own beauty?'". Alongside the exhibitions, guided tours with seniors and children are offered, where dialogues and exchanges are established.
Having highlighted the misconception of the third age, Iris is now working on developing the pedagogical part with educational tools for institutions.
As the elderly represent 14,3% of the Luxembourg population, Iris is still looking for volunteers. “English speakers are very well received. We do not want language or origin to be a barrier,” explained Acevedo Fuchs.
Volunteer should be willing to commit for at least one year, will have a 30-hour training preceded by an interview, and a one-day internship with a senior volunteer who will guide them. Volunteers can also benefit from other training during the year, such as how to approach people with Alzheimer’s and learn more about new therapies.
Schedule and locations of the “Iris” Photo Exhibition
- 5 to 15 July at Parc du Domaine Thermal de Mondorf
- 17 to 31 July at Dudelange City Hall
- 27 August to 7 September at the Bierger-Center in Luxembourg City
- 5 to 15 September at Gare de Luxembourg
- 12 to 30 September at Place de la Résistance in Belval and Esch-sur-Alzette City Hall
- 25 November 2018 to 6 January 2019 in Junglinster