Invaluable wisdom, charismatic charm, a profound appreciation of the past and present, and a fundamental appreciation of the fact that tomorrow is never promised - it all comes with the beautiful thing we call ‘age’. Celebrated author and photographer Renée Hollis knows better than anyone what our mature generations contribute to our lives by way of knowledge and emotional intelligence. Some of her most important lifework honours and pays respect to our forebears. We talk to Renée about her focus on our senior citizens, their lives, and her new books Keepers of History: New Zealand Centenarians Tell Their Stories and Human Kindness and Fear and Courage.
1. How did you come to write about seniors in New Zealand?
I observed that not all people as they get older are treated with the respect and value that they deserve. In fact some older people have become invisible in our communities, which is really sad. This group of people have seen the most during their lifetime and have so much wisdom and experience to share with others. I wanted to sit next to a person over the age over 100 and really listen to what they had to say.
2. You've earned the very affectionate name 'the grey whisperer', what does this mean to you?
It’s a lovely compliment. Putting people at ease to talk about their lives was important. They had to like and trust me to do this. Before I started on this book, I never anticipated that I would become friends with so many of the people I interviewed and their families. It has been a very special book to work on.
3. What was the objective of your book and do you feel it fulfils that?
Yes. People are reading and seeing this generation through new eyes. I also wanted to inspire older people to think that when they are 100+ they could be very
active and have a happy life.
4. What were some revelations you had on your journey of conducting interviews and writing the book?
It was an honour to speak to so many inspiring people. It was a privilege for me. I was also incredibly inspired that people I spoke to were leading very active and happy lives.
5. Do you have any ambitions for future stories?
Human Kindness and Fear and Courage (both by Exisle Publishing) are coming out in October.