As part of a photography project at Kingston University, Eden was to research a community in London. Her plan was to do it from an older persons perspective, so she contacted a nursing home in Pimlico. When she visited them, she was told that she wouldn't be able to take photographs. However, when leaving, she noticed a lady crossing the street. She plucked up some courage and went over and talked to her. Her name was Hetty, she was 85 and had lived in the same flat in a Peabody estate in Pimlico all her life. A month later Eden went to her flat for the first time. Now they meet at least once a week, and have become good friends.

We have had a few chats with graphic designer and photographer Eden Mitchell about her amazing project with 85 year old art teacher Hetty. Here are some of the things we talked about. Enjoy!

Hello hello, can you tell our readers a bit about who are you and what are you up to at the moment?

My name is Eden and I'm in my second year here at Kingston studying Graphics. Although I started working with Hetty for my student project, I'm now working with Hetty filming and creating a publication for her art class, Encouragement through the arts and talking (E.T.A.T), aimed at helping people who feel lonely.The class is amazing and should get more recognition for what it does to support people living in Pimlico. (You can find our more about E.T.A.T's here). If The Age of No Retirement can help draw attention to my portrait of Hetty perhaps this could help to spread how amazing E.T.A.T is.

Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?

Yes, as I feel I have only become an adult. Suddenly feel I have more responsibility and want to achieve more and I guess make people proud of me. In terms of me visiting the older ladies at E.T.A.T I feel my age has perhaps had more of an impact on them. They don't often get a lot of younger people (aged 25 and under) visiting them so my presence came as a bit of a surprise. The ladies love chatting to me and I can tell it makes them happy. It gives me a lot of pleasure too to just have a conversation. It makes me feel good to volunteer and spend time with the ladies and I hope to continue doing so and perhaps encouraging more people my age to do so too.

Do you think how old you are today, changes how people think about you?

It depends on the situation, but not as much now as I am an ‘adult’. However, I think people do expect you to be more ‘serious’ at my age compared to being a teenager. Also, my boyfriend is four years older than me and when I’m around his aged friends I don’t like them to know my age sometimes. I don’t want them to see me as the young one.

It is very rare these days I get asked my age, which does make me think that age doesn’t define us. I used to love being asked how old I was when I turned 18 so I could show my ID. However, now I want people to welcome me for the person I am and not how old I am.

I believe that regardless of your age, if you feel confident in your self and surrounded by a strong support team you can achieve great things.

What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?

"People are individuals. I feel people aren’t defined by their age. They are defined by their experience. You could be an old person in spirit at 30 and a young person at 80."

Eden Mitchell.

Image by Eden Mitchell.

Living between my house at university with my group of friends and coming back at weekends for work and living back with my parents. As I am a student and the price of our fees mean I have to keep working as a waitress back where my family are. This makes me feel like I am living too separate lives.

It feels that I am in a stage of life which is very up in the air. It's an exciting age but I also feel a lot of pressure to make the correct choices. This can create stress but being around people who are older and who are successful and happy gives me hope to carry on with what I enjoy.

What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?

Judgment and the pressures that come with coming of a certain ages. 18 and 21 always have a lot of stigma and traditions attached. Currently I have a lot of friends throwing big lavish 21’st birthday parties. Personally I feel its way over the top the amount of money they out into them. I think its great to celebrate whatever age you are but between my friends there’s a lot of competition to throw the best party for your 21st or 18th. Last weekend I attended a joint 50th birthday. It was one of the best parties I have been too. This was mainly due to the fact I was there with my family and closest friends but also there was such a good mix and range of different aged people. There was 80 years to 14 year olds. The age just didn’t matter as everyone was up for having a good time and a laugh.

What can you learn from people who are older?

I think I have learnt that you can defy expectations. For instance my parents who are both in their fifties are avid mountain bikers and super fit. My mum who is a very popular female mountain bike blogger writes a lot about older women being able to exercise and not judged for it. Her website is here if you are interested.

People are individuals. I feel people aren’t defined by their age. They are defined by their experience. You could be an old person in spirit at 30 and a young person at 80.

What can you learn from people who are younger?

The same as the above question. Everyone brings something different to the table. I have two younger sisters, 18 and 16. We are extremely close. 

What have you learned from Hetty?

"Hetty has made me look at getting older as more of a success and a positive rather than a negative."

Eden Mitchell.

Image by Eden Mitchell.

Firstly how lonely a lot of elderly people are. Also how much they respect and cherish just a chat about their day. It made me question how I spend my time and how I can do more to help elderly people in feeling more cherished. I now go and visit Hetty and the other ladies at E.T.A.T as often as I can just to say, 'Hi'. I never realised how rewarding it is and has really opened my eyes to helping and volunteering within our community. Before I met Hetty I didn’t much charity/volunteer work at all but now I am much more excited to help out.

I have also learned so much about how Hetty’s life has evolved and their amazing experiences she has encountered. Hetty is known as ‘the flower lady’ in Pimlico. Her career was a florist and led her to doing princess Anne’s flowers regularly as well as help arranging flowers for Prince Will and Kate’s wedding. She wasn’t boastful about it, she just casually slipped it in to conversation.

Has your friendship changed your view on people who are older?

That they deserve a lot my time given to them and that people should really listen as their lives are so interesting and insightful. In Hetty’s case they are also very funny and witty and even though they can’t post an Instagram or make a snapchat of their day, they can instead talk and talk about things I never thought existed and in so much detail. It has made me question how much time I spend on social media and that I should be changing my attention to being more present in everyday life. I found attending the ladies art class at E.T.A.T a great way to apply this. 

How do you feel about getting older? Has that changed since Hetty?

Im excited as to where my life will lead i.e. what career I will have, what my family will be and where I will live. However it all seems a little daunting currently. I think being in my 2nd year at university everything is very new and different. I know I need to try out a lot of different areas in work and probably fail a lot in order to find something I excel in. this is really scary. I want to be proud of myself when I look back when I am older so feel quite pressured to live my life to the fullest and achieve some great things. Hetty has made me look at getting older as more of a success and a positive rather than a negative. She has made me respect older people 100 times more than I did and listen and take their advice much more seriously (especially from my parents).

What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?

I think its great to meet each person with an open mind.

Before my first visit with Hetty I had the idea that she wouldn’t be very lively and quite slow to respond. I was completely wrong. Hetty is amazing. She has so much ‘get up and go’ and is very opinionated about her community that she has lived in her whole life.

We shouldn’t make judgments of people by their age.