Golden Oldies

When I’m in my late 80s – assuming I live that long! – I hope I’m as active as the retirees who participate in the Senior Program at the 92nd St Y on Manhattan’s east side. For an annual fee, members can attend classes all day long, in everything from drawing and painting to dance, music, cardio, swimming, qi gong, bridge, meditation, discussion groups and writing workshops. The program is ongoing. I model for the senior art classes in addition to my regular modeling for the 92Y’s Art Center. They are completely separate programs, with different booking offices, pay rates, rooms, etc. I’m honored to pose for all 92Y members on all the floors of that building. Book me for the class and I’m there!

I love the elderly. I’ve always enjoyed a warm, easy rapport with them and can honestly say that they are among the best conversationalists around, for good reason of course. Long lifetimes of experience and survival make for great storytelling, empathetic natures, and rich perspectives. The folks in the senior program at the 92Y have taken an affectionate liking to me as one of their regular models, and the feeling is mutual. We’ve been having a lot of fun together this summer 🙂

Photo I took of the seniors lounge on the lobby floor of the 92Y. Free coffee, tables for lunch, card playing, and socializing. Two of my favorite gals, Roz and Ruth, are in this photo.

Some of the seniors are attended to by caretakers, though not as many as you’d think. Overall, in spite of the occasional cane, walker, hearing aid, etc., the seniors of the 92Y are remarkably independent. Good humor abounds, and unlike art classes with younger generations, the seniors don’t bury their faces in mobile devices on every break. How refreshing! They are widows and widowers, retired nurses, retired public school teachers, psychologists, engineers, and theater set designers. So many life journeys, stretching back to the war years.

The seniors at the 92Y are predominantly native New Yorkers, and elderly New Yorkers are still like New Yorkers of any age – gregarious, frank, savvy, marinated daily in the biggest, boldest city on earth. That kind of thing never leaves you, even at 88 years old.

I’m delighted to share some artwork of my modeling by the senior members. Two pencil drawings by Sol, and two watercolor sketches by Jean. I was very touched by how much they were enjoying themselves, and I was happy to be there for them.

12 thoughts on “Golden Oldies

  1. Jennifer says:

    It sounds a fabulous resource! I’m sure it brightens the week to go there and to be entertained by their favourite model – lovely sketches/paintings of you. Sounds like you’ve been having a good summer, with a balancing mix of work and rest.
    Jennifer

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      Yes, it’s a wonderful resource! A really well organized program for seniors. Just the socializing aspect brings enrichment to their lives. I’m honored to play a small part in it.

      Yes, my summer has been quite good, with an above average amount of modeling work. Very grateful. Hope your summer is going well too!

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  2. roberta m says:

    What a lovely story! And the stories you must hear–such a blessing to hear them. I bet Roz and Ruth have a few!

    • artmodel says:

      Roberta,

      Yes, great stories! In fact, Roz and I discovered that we graduated from the same high school! Jamaica High School in Queens which is, sadly, no more. We shared a wonderful conversation about it.

      Thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Claudia

  3. Dave says:

    Nice! One of the groups I model for is almost exclusively made up of senior citizens, and I do really enjoy posing for that group. Thanks for sharing your experiences and those sketches.

  4. artmodelandrew says:

    “qi gong” made me think of Donkey Kong. Fun to visualize a group of senior citizens enthusiastically gathered around the 1980’s era arcade game, the next room over from the figure drawing class.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Kong_(video_game)

    I often see senior citizens in figure drawing sessions as well. Sometimes it is a formal class. Other times it is a group of old friends who split the cost of a model. Other times it is at drop-in groups.

    Some are just starting out their artistic pursuits. After retiring from a career or raising a family, they finally have “me time” to learn to draw, paint, or sculpt. In other cases, it is an ongoing, life-long passion.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew,

      I’m sure even senior citizens would be better at Donkey Kong than I was! Not my game. I preferred Galaga.

      And yes the seniors come to art classes from various perspectives, like you said. Many at the 92Y are learning fresh, while others have maintained a practice for much of their lives. What’s really nice is the absence of driving ambition. I mean that as a compliment. Graduate school art programs can be so serious and intense, and are quite a contrast to leisurely seniors just enjoying figure drawing without pressures and critiques.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  5. Bill says:

    As a marinated senior myself, I especially enjoyed this posting. Some of the models I draw are young enough to be my grandchildren and, for some reason, they seem to be growing younger every year. Strange 🙂

    All kidding aside, one of the interesting things about life drawing is that the subject doesn’t change significantly from year-to-year. Oh, the hairstyles may change somewhat but, for the most part, the basic human form doesn’t change. I can look back at my drawings even back to the 1960’s and see a consistency of subject matter over the decades. Since the only thing left is my interpretation of the subject, reviewing past drawings provides a good basis for reflection on the changes (hopefully growth) in my own ability to perceive and act upon that perception. Beyond that, there’s something quite eternal about the whole business — somehow I find that comforting.

    Thank you to my fellow seniors for sharing their artwork. I may have to come down there and sneak into the 92Y someday to draw you. I’ll be the guy wearing the Patriots cap and the fake beard that isn’t fake.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Thank you for pointing out the timelessness of life drawing. I find it comforting as well, especially given that it’s my livelihood! It really doesn’t change at all, essentially.

      Among the 92y crowd, you’d be one of the “spring chickens”! A young senior, if you will. I know of one member there who is 100! But you could certainly come down and draw with your Patriots cap on and squabble with the old Giants fans there! I’d avoid your Red Sox hat though 😉

      Thanks for your comments, friend!

      Claudia

  6. Love the eyes on that first sketch.

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