By PATTY NIEBERG, Associated Press/Report for America
DENVER (AP) — Throughout the pandemic, many seniors have been isolated from loved ones and flooded with grim news of their peers dying from the coronavirus at disproportionate rates.
As spirits waned, the director of a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to shifting the mindset about ageing dreamt up an idea: Birthday cards with unique artwork and messages that challenged the notion that getting older is all about decline, depression and dependence.
The organization chose 22 artists from 60 who applied to create colorful, inspirational cards with positive messages they hope will brighten the day for some seniors when the cards land in their mailboxes, said Janine Vanderburg, director of the nonprofit called Changing the Narrative which began in 2018. The cards are now on sale.
Vanderburg said the proceeds will be used to pay artists for already-requested future holiday card designs and to continue the nonprofit’s efforts to educate the public on ageism.
“There’s so much internalized ageism that people have accepted these messages that getting older is awful,” said Vanderburg, 67.
Vanderburg said was surprised by the variety of submissions but many shared themes of wisdom, adventure and gratitude for living another day, which she says is “especially resonant right now” with global lockdowns and staggering death tolls from the pandemic.
There have been more than 280,000 deaths of people over the age of 65 from the coronavirus in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of the cards use natural landscapes and vibrant colors. One of them features a painting of a man on top of a mountain at sunset with the message, “Every year is a victory. Happy Birthday!”
Another shows a gray-haired woman tending to sunflowers with mountains as the backdrop alongside the message, “If experience is the currency of living life, wisdom is wealth.”
The cards are for sale online for $6 each and in store at Hope Tank, a gift shop located in downtown Denver which is temporarily closed for in-person sales due to the coronavirus.
One of the artists, Eloisa Lynch-Rocha, a Denver middle school art teacher, said her 73-year-old mother inspires her art. Lynch-Rocha’s birthday card illustration is a surreal scene featuring a hand eating from a hot air balloon-popcorn holder with the backdrop of a stage with curtains.
Lynch-Rocha said she’s started to notice that her colleagues are much younger than her and instead of feeling threatened, she chose to use things like creating positive birthday cards to make older people feel special.
“It’s good to get older. Especially with everything that’s going on right now, you know,” she said. “Not everybody gets to be in their 40s and their 50s and their 60s and so on and so forth and so it’s a beautiful thing.”
Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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