AUSTIN (KXAN) – As we get older, do we think of slowing down with age or can we change that mindset and age in reverse?
I started my fitness journey almost two years ago, at the age of 41, and today I’m physically, mentally and spiritually stronger than I was in my early 20s. For me, it’s been movement and community that keeps my heart beating and my mind young.
That type of thinking is reinforced every day at a senior community in south Austin.
“Your passion doesn’t have an age cap,” said Whitne Batiste, the healthy lifestyle director at Elmcroft Senior Living.
When she first walked the halls of the living center, Batiste was filled with inspiration after meeting the women and men who call Elmcroft home.
“One resident told me she played piano at Carnegie Hall. We have an ex-dean from the University of Texas. We have a lady who was a missionary, she did things abroad in Haiti,” explained Batiste. “A lot of distinguished people live here, and they just want to still be of service.”
Among the group is 90-year-old Claude van Lingen. I met him at the Blanton Museum of Art earlier this month while he was giving his friends from the home a tour of the artwork.
Claude is a familiar face at the Blanton. When he walked through the doors, workers in the front lobby and security workers quickly smiled and greeted their former museum volunteer.
He walked the floors of the museum for nearly 10 years. The humble man from South Africa knows a lot about art, especially the piece that hangs on the second floor called “1,000 Years from Now: I Am Right, You Are Wrong.” It’s one of his many pieces of art on display from around the world.
In the past, when he introduced this piece, he did it with a bit of flare – using a hammer to be exact.
“I looked at the people, and I said, ‘I am right, and you are wrong! Bam! Bam!’” Claude shared with his friends the excitement he felt that day when his work made it to New York as he simulated grabbing a hammer and smashing his artwork.
In this specific piece he wrote, “I am right, you are wrong,” at the top of his canvass, and then wrote the same line over and over all the way down. After that, he wrote on top of those lines over and over, until the writings turned dark.
“All my work has to do with what’s going on in the world, the environment, politics and battles,” he said.
This is his signature work he started to explore in 1978. He would write names from lists, one on top of the other, he did this after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is constantly thinking of new art projects. He shared his latest idea at the museum when I asked him about future art pieces. This one involves his friends at the home. He wants everyone to write their names on a four-foot by eight-foot paper along with the words I am right, you are wrong. Right now, Claude is working on a piece he calls a reflection of 2020.
“It’s going to be a real mess of all the junk, all the rubbish that happened in 2020,” he explained.
When he’s not working on his art, Claude helps welcome new members at Elmcroft. He’s the new resident ambassador, which is a job perfect for a man who is used to walking and talking.
“They still want to feel like they can be of service – that’s really important to them, like they can still contribute. Regardless of their age, we still need them,” said Batiste.
“They are the reason why we are here. Let that be the reason you show appreciation. Let that be the reason why you realize, ‘I didn’t get here on my own,’ somebody had to like lay the foundation. That’s our elders. They show love growing up, they were there for everybody growing up and it just seems like sometimes, nobody’s there for them.”
Batiste got a chance to see Claude’s current piece called 2020. She describes it as a blockbuster movie that will blow your mind.
“You mix Fast and Furious, you mix the Terminator, you mix the Avengers, the transformers, you mix all of that into one movie, and it’s on one piece of art, and to say it’s not even done, and it looks that good,” she explained. “I’m not an art person, but the way he explains it, and the way that he’s putting the piece together, when the world sees, you’re going to be amazed.”
What keeps Claude motivated?
“I just have to keep myself busy all the time, I can’t really sit and do nothing,” he said simply.
Jose Torres is a morning news producer with KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing those conversations in future blogs.