“We are all heading on the same path that our grandparents were on. It is an inevitable journey of life. It starts with the simple act of generosity. Give our time to them, since they gave us their care and time. There are a lot of stories to be shared through storytelling from our elders, but also from us. They want to listen to us too and through this bridge we form relationships. Life does not end at a given age.”
Ole Kassow – Founder, Cycling Without Age
It was Sunday, break of dawn, when we arrived at Næstved’s Eldercenter – “We are heading up to Norway!”, said Finn Flodin Larsen, an 81 year-old retired bricklayer from Hillerød, Denmark.
In his small house inside the care center, Finn, without hesitation and worry about possible language barriers, eloquently, and almost immediately as we walked in, showed us his family photos, rings and necklaces he has crafted himself, piggy bank collection, and last but not least, a massive weaving machine that occupies about half of his bedroom.
“They told me, ‘You can watch TV’. But to hell with all that! I have to do something that I can touch and feel”, he replied when asked if it was ok for him to do so many activities with his debilitating health.
It was clear to us, then, that not sharing a bit of the world through Finn’s eyes would be a lost opportunity.
During June 8-12, 2015, I joined Cycling Without Age, a not-for-profit organization where volunteers sign up for bike rides with elderly people, in a historical journey from southern Denmark to Norway. I was given the amazing task of, together with two other film crew members, photographing, videographing and telling Finn’s stories and experiences through a short portrait documentary film.
Below are some photos of how Finn and more than ten other elders were welcomed along the way, overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, and just couldn’t stop smiling.
Working with the elder population and in a very developed country, like Denmark, has been especially enriching for my storytelling skills and perspective on the universality of humanity as a Rotary Peace Fellow. No matter where in the globe, we all feel the same emotions and deal with the same inherit vulnerabilities. No human being or action is undeserving of empathetic – yet still reasonable – responses and judgements. I firmly believe and work towards spreading the idea that if that is genuinely accounted for in the way we experience ourselves and others, things might, after all, be different.
During my stay in Denmark, I will work on two short portrait documentary films to be used by Cycling Without Age in social and digital media. The idea is to help the organization grow worldwide by spreading the word about its many benefits to mental health and intergenerational integration.
Finn’s story, as well as another story currently in planning phase, will also be adapted for a mental health campaign sponsored by the City of Copenhagen.
The films will be finalized by Mid-August and you will be able to watch them at www.marianabdalla.com