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Creative Aging Superstars – Audrey Cooper

Audrey Cooper London Ontario

Audrey Cooper is the Creative Age Festival Artist in Residence. When you hear her reflect on the events of  her life (born in 1928) you soon realize Audrey doesn’t sugar-coat her thoughts or words. She didn’t fit in then. At the age of 90, she says she doesn’t fit in now. And she likes it.  It\’s safe to say, Audrey is a talented, intelligent, amusing, endearing, irreverent iconoclast.

As a young mother living in the newly-formed suburbs, she was essentially snubbed by neighbours for starting her own business. Wives and mothers in her social circle weren’t supposed to do things like that. She continued to build her new enterprise although there were few supports for newly-divorced, single entrepreneurial moms during the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout her career, Audrey employed, trained and mentored many younger women.

When she retired, Audrey decided to move from Toronto to a smaller town, just to be closer to family members.

It was during that time, she found herself rapidly sinking into a deep depression and she knew she was in trouble. At the age of 76, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital for a mental health respite. Instead of taking shock-therapy (the recommended treatment at the time) she picked up a paintbrush and started to paint with a prolific and feverish pace.

Her real therapy started when she started to paint all the colourful and happy childhood memories of Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. Although she has recently sold many of her “urban folk art” narrative paintings, Audrey exhibits the larger works in her gallery called Art with Panache, located in the Talbot Centre in London Ontario. Audrey opened the gallery when she was 86 years old.

Note: 10% to 15% of Canada\’s seniors suffer from depression. Depression is a common problem among older adults but it is not normal. In a sample of nearly 50,000 seniors living in residential care facilities (such as long-term care, nursing or personal care homes) in five Canadian jurisdictions, nearly half (44%) had a diagnosis and/or symptoms of depression.

Audrey believes professionally led creative programs can lead many older adults out of the blackness of depression into a world of music, movement and vibrant colour.

Audrey Cooper can be reached at Art with Panache Gallery in London Ontario. audcooper@mac.com

Audrey and her paper mache friend

Paper mache sculpture by Kit Cutting