Some creatives use their talents to inspire others, and this is definitely the case with London-based writer Dominique Afacan and photographer Helen Cathcart. The two friends founded Bolder in March 2015: a blog whose sole mission is to champion old age. We spoke to them about how Bolder came to life, why it’s important, and which “Bolders” have inspired them the most. In an age that celebrates youth over youthfulness, the work of these friends is both touching and important.
Above: Writer Dominique Afacan (left) & photographer Helen Cathcart (right)
How did the idea for Bolder come to life?
Dominique: I think the honest answer is that we were both scared of getting older – not that we realized that until further down the line. When we started the project it was really to give us a personal project that felt more meaningful than our day-to-day commissioned projects. We both work in the media so we also knew there was a gap in the market for what we were doing.
Helen: I had photographed an amazing woman in her 90s for a magazine, an occurrence which was incredibly unusual. When I told Dom about it she said, ‘this is a gap we need to fill’. We realized it was something that resonated with us both, being scared of getting older and feeling like we were already being labeled ‘old’ in the media’s eyes, even in our 30s.
What do you try and communicate to Bolder readers?
Dominique: That getting older is a gift and life doesn’t progressively deteriorate with age. Most of the people we interview state that they are happier now than ever.
Helen: We are trying to change people’s perceptions of age stereotypes while we are still in a position of having people listen to us. We are all going to get old (if we are lucky) so it’s crazy that we don’t try and make things more positive for our future selves.
Above: Frances Dunscombe, 83, Model
What are your ambitions for the project?
Dominique: Our mission has always been very simple; to change perceptions about what it means to grow older. The way we achieve that might change: we’re in talks to publish a book for example, and we have started speaking out against ageism at various events, but our message will stay the same.
Helen: To keep finding amazing older people to continue inspiring us, and to make ourselves and our readers have a more positive outlook. As Dom says, we would love Bolder to take the form of a beautiful book eventually.
Why is Bolder important?
Dominique: When we hear teenagers stressing about turning 21, or when we (both in our thirties) are bombarded with media telling us how to turn back the clock, we know that the message we are spreading is vital. Ageism is one of the last accepted forms of discrimination and – spoiler alert – we’re all aging every day! So we’re doing ourselves a favour by changing attitudes.
Helen: It’s so important to get the media to stop focusing on youth so much as it lasts a relatively short time. This obsession becomes incredibly discriminating, especially for women. We are trying to make what is considered the older demographic much more visible and in a positive way. Bolder is amazing in that it constantly re-educates you on what you think the boundaries are for certain ages and makes you realize age is totally irrelevant.
You call the people you feature “Bolders.” Do you find that any themes have emerged from talking to Bolders about their life?
Dominique: Yes. Many of them have fallen in love later in life, which was so refreshing to hear. Also many still have active sex lives which might surprise some. Other than that, most of the people we interview are passionate about what they do and don’t plan to retire anytime soon.
Helen: A main theme is that they are just all so positive and get on with things. They also haven’t given into preconceived notions of what they are supposed to be like at their age – again, another factor often dictated by the media. They do what they want.
Above: Professor Gordon McVie, 71 (left) & Alan Kitching, 74, Typographer & Graphic designer (right)
Which Bolders have inspired you the most?
Dominique: The cancer specialist Gordon McVie was an absolute joy to interview. He was a ball of energy, full of charisma and totally open and honest with us. His reaction when we asked him if he’d ever stop working was “I have no intention of retiring as we haven’t cured cancer yet.” That stuck with me. Also Frances Dunscombe, who started modeling in her 80s, was a fascinating character who gave us hours of her time. One of her quotes, ‘I only wish I’d realized I was capable of more sooner in life” really resonated with me.
Helen: Alan Kitching (75 years old) resonated with me: he said his creativity was what kept him going and that he always had something to get out of bed for in the morning. Werealizedd that a lot of creative people live very long and rich lives for this reason.