Over the course of the winter of 2016 I was obsessed with reading non-fiction narratives on aging and dying. This preoccupation with aging and how we value our seniors is not a new topic for me to consider photographically, and as a woman who is, at this writing, 63 years old with a mother of 92 years, it is deeply personal. Of all my readings, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal had the most profound effect on me; it is a powerful discussion of how our culture has changed in the ways it attends to its aging populations.
In Gawande’s view, our culture opts to make life “safer” for seniors, which too often can be at odds to what truly contributes to their quality of life: their independence and capacity to make their own choices. Like once useful furniture that is relegated to basement storage, seniors are often “stored” in nursing homes for safe-keeping until their eventual death. Yes, their physical needs are attended to, but often at a cost to their personal, emotional and spiritual needs.
Safekeeping addresses how we “store” the elderly with all the other accumulated artifacts of our lives.