LivingProof – a collaboration between Bene Aged Care, writer Rosa Matto and photographer Italo Vardaro

As we grow older, how we express our identities shifts as a result of mental and physical limitations, along with our response to the way society expects us to age. LivingProof shares the stories of 10 residents, consumers, family members, staff and volunteers at Bene Aged Care.

In the succinct words of writer Rosa Matto: “If we ignore our storytellers we are lost.” Her words, complemented by the poignant photography of Italo Vardaro, offer a window into the often over-looked moments of joy, beauty and engagement in the elderly care community as we all age in our own way.

As we enter the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–30), we must ask ourselves: What does it mean to grow older – for individuals, their families and communities?

Rosa Matto – writer: “This undertaking with Bene sought to give voice to residents, staff and volunteers; to ask them to tell their stories one more time, assuring them there was a sympathetic ear.

It became more than that. We proposed not to relive the chronology of the past but to find the essence of joy in the present. Starting from a place that was comfortable for the narrator – a doorway in a backstreet in Benevento, a border crossing in Slovenia, a hotel kitchen in Findon, the choir loft of a suburban church – the sound and rhythm of each story differed.”

Italo Vardaro – photographer: “The power and beauty of the still image is that it captures a split second of awareness that you can never reproduce. The process can’t be rushed. And yet for this project I found myself working in a confined residential home where life was as busy as a beehive.

It was a project that made me connect with strangers who were somehow familiar. I felt a connection, a kinship and an understanding. I came to understand why the staff always talked to me about how privileged they felt to care for the residents, the rewards they received by giving care and receiving love in return.”