FULL OF LIFE: Eileen Kramer is hip and groovy enjoying the stunning Uluru sunset.
FULL OF LIFE: Eileen Kramer is hip and groovy enjoying the stunning Uluru sunset.

Age is not a "limiting factor" says century-old performer

EILEEN Kramer, at the age of 102, throws a completely different perspective on the notion that age is a "limiting factor".

"She's just really special," says Arts Health Institute's co-founder and chief executive Dr Maggie Haertsch of the institute's lively and independent ambassador.

"Our whole focus is around improving the quality of life for older people; she personifies that," Maggie said.

A mutually rewarding relationship exists between Eileen and the institute - she continues to be creative, and it helps with needs like staging and art supplies.

"She comes to our events as well where she basically is able to engage her audience," Maggie said.

"She doesn't like the word 'aged', she prefers to say she's been on the planet a long time.

"Eileen enjoys being around other generations. She's hip and groovy, and has a beautiful way of living.

"She's a great inspiration for everybody.

"Ageing is thought of as a condition of life, but actually it's just 'life'.

"It's about embracing it and loving it and not seeing that anything gets in the way.

"That's the key, it's attitudinal. It's about keeping on creating and having something that's meaningful.

"The arts and health together is the art of living well.

"Using imagination and the arts helps frame your identity and there's something magical about the arts - they're deeply rooted in our primal selves."

Eileen Kramer stands next to a portrait of herself entered into the Archibald Prize.
Eileen Kramer stands next to a portrait of herself entered into the Archibald Prize.

Maggie, an academic, nurse and midwife, proud grandmother and "half Eileen's age", is on a mission to improve quality of life as people age.

In 2015, she was a finalist in the United Nations Australian Association's Media Peace Prize Awards for her work promoting positive images of ageing, and in the same year she was recognised as one of the 100 Women of Influence in Australia. 

"I've always felt that aged care services is about enablement," she said.

"Aged care services have to change. It's no longer clinical, it's about how you live well.

"I know you don't thrive when you're older when you're not doing something that's meaningful and has purpose. And when you've got choice.

"For me, I'm not interested in retirement while I've got something to give and contribute to the world."

The six-year-old institute operates on the east coast of Australia, up to the Sunshine Coast and down to Hobart.

"It's going strong. We work with aged care providers and in the health system," Maggie says. "Where we need to be, is to make what we do mainstream.

"What we do is therapeutic. We're a registered charity and a social enterprise.

"We're also a major employer of artists; they're professional highly skilled extraordinary artists.

"There's a lot of work to be done ... we've got a big mission."

Find out more at www.artshealthinstitute.org.au.


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