Senior Victorians shine in Benetas photo exhibition, as in life

Benetas CEO Sandra Hills says the Unexpected Heroes campaign is about increasing respect for older people.

A collection of 19 portraits designed to show older Victorians in a new light is on display at Melbourne Town Hall.

Ethel Arrowsmith, photographed as part of Benetas' Unexpected Heroes campaign.

PHOTO: Ben Capp Photography

By Mark Brolly

October 5 2015A collection of 19 portraits designed to show older Victorians in a new light is on display at Melbourne Town Hall from 5-9 October as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival.

Benetas, the not-for-profit aged care provider founded by the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne 67 years ago, is behind the exhibition, Unexpected Heroes, and a social media campaign inviting Victorians to share a photo of their older hero – perhaps a grandparent or a neighbour – and to be in the running for prizes. Photos may be uploaded to until mid-November, with winners announced shortly afterwards.

Songyan Ge and Shuqin Cui. Photo: Ben Capp Photography

A resource for schools has been developed to encourage younger people to understand the lives of older people and to break down negative stereotypes associated with ageing.

The campaign was launched on 29 September at the Collins Street headquarters of audit, tax and advisory corporation KPMG, which has supported Benetas’ campaign.

Benetas’ CEO Ms Sandra Hills said the campaign was about increasing respect for older people.

“We believe that every older person has a story to tell, and it’s these stories that make them heroes,” Ms Hills said.

Unexpected Heroes is all about recognising the lives and contributions of older people in our community.”

Victorians featured in the portrait exhibition include 83-year-old Rob Scott of Rosebud, a former farmer and jackaroo in the Outback; Jim and Bess McMahon, both in their 90s, who survived the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 in Kinglake; Edith Jackson, 91, who knits toys for disadvantaged children in Asia and the Pacific from her home in Kangaroo Flat, near Bendigo; 78-year-old Giuseppe Inserra, who built a skate rink in Laverton in 1983 and who has taught many adults and children to skate; Ethel Arrowsmith, 89, of Upwey, who raised 13 children with her husband Ken and has 54 grandchildren and great-grandchildren; Chinese couple Shuqin Cui and Songyan Ge, now living in Melbourne, who are both 84 and spent much of their lives as doctors; World War II veteran and former prisoner-of-war Colin Fraser, 92, of Camberwell; and 81-year-old Stella Jackson, of Traralgon, who grew up on a farm and overcame her fears to learn to swim – now one of her favourite pastimes – only in her 50s.

All those featured – or their spouses – are residents, clients or volunteers with Benetas.

Ms Hills said Benetas, which provides aged care services for more than 4000 older Victorians each year in its 13 residential care facilities and through its community care programs, had a long history of nurturing and supporting intergenerational relationships between older and younger people.

“We want the people of Melbourne to share the story of their hero, and discover ‘what’s beneath the wrinkles’,” she said.