Photo contest challenges stereotypes of aging

U-News Staff

The UMKC Consortium for Aging is holding the Be BOld  photography contest until Nov. 10th that encourages photographers to portray older people as vibrant and active members of their community.

The UMKC Consortium for Aging is comprised of 35 faculty members who have expertise or interest in issues facing the world’s aging population. The Consortium works to find adequate responses to an aging world.

“The World Health Organization considers the aging of the human population the most significant demographic shift in human history,” Co-Director of the Consortium for Aging, Kelli Wright said. “We’re really not ready for those changes. It’s not that aging is coming – it’s here.”

This is the first Be BOld photo contest.

“One of the Consortium’s priorities is to be provocative and to challenge traditional ideas,” Wright said. The Consortium seeks photos that break aging’s negative stereotypes.

“People don’t like to talk about aging. Older adults often talk about feeling kind of invisible in society, not having much of a voice and not having social capital,” Wright said. “These [feelings] are all based on stereotypes…and most of them are not true.”

The Be BOld photography contest rules do not include specific age requirements.

“This is because age is truly relative,” says Wright. The U.S. legally considers anyone age 65 or older as a senior citizen.

“By 2050, there will be more people on this earth over [age] 60 than under [age]14. The human face will be permanently an older face…The fastest growing group of people in the world are 85 and older,” Wright said.

Submissions will be reviewed by seven judges, who include civic leader Alvin Brooks, Hispanic community advocate Freda Mendez-Smith, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Curator Dr. Jan Schall and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences Kati Toivanen.

Wright said submissions are open to the public because the Consortium finds it important to involve the community. The Consortium is looking for organic images that are not heavily manipulated in order to honor the integrity of the subjects. Photos should challenge aging stereotypes, not confirm them.

”Society often equates healthy aging to old people acting like young people”, Wright said. She said the 2013 film “Last Vegas” is an example of what judges do not want to see.

“If we’re lucky, we live a long life. That means that we live many stages,” Wright said.  “Life is to be lived in the moment in which it’s happening.”