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PHOTOS: 80-something graffiti artists hit the streets in Portugal

“It’s good to keep learning until you die.”

Portugal Elderly Graffiti Source: AP

SOME OF THEM are hard of hearing or don’t see well. Others complain about stiff joints. One is 101 years old.

All have become graffiti artists under a new project to energise a group of elderly people in Portugal.

Learning how to graffiti is bringing cheer and a can-do attitude to pensioners in this rural Portuguese city, including 92-year-old Maria do Ceu Pais (photographed).

Portugal Elderly Graffiti Maria do Ceu Pais, 92, spray painting a stencil of her hand. Source: AP

Until late last century, Covilha was a thriving textile centre but it now has an aged population as the industry declined and the young left to find work.

The goal of the graffiti workshop is to get the elderly away from knitting or sitting in cafés, says Lara Seixo Rodrigues, a local woman who launched the project.

She wants to break their routines, keep them active and motivated, and bring them into contact with younger generations.

Portugal Elderly Graffiti 101-year-old Emilia de Jesus Teles spray-painting a wall in Covilha, Portugal. Source: AP

And they rise to the challenge.

Seixo Rodrigues says “they completely change in a couple of hours.”

At the start, they complain they can’t do certain things, such as use a box cutter, but with some coaxing they do.

By the time they have learned enough to start spraying on a wall, they are raring to go.

They drop their crutches and put aside their walking sticks and jump to it. They are all capable of having a much more active life.

Portugal Elderly Graffiti 84-year-old Lourdes Pires, holding her can of spray paint during a graffiti workshop. Source: AP

Seixo Rodrigues got the idea when she saw how local pensioners reacted to graffiti during an art festival in Covilha, located in a range of hills about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital.

The local elderly were fascinated by the graffiti, she says, and were full of questions about it.

Portugal Elderly Graffiti 101-year-old Emilia de Jesus Teles, with Liberta da Fonseca Graca (87), in the background. Source: AP

The roughly 10-hour workshop is divided into four stages: lessons on the history of graffiti from the 1970s in the United States; helping participants create their own “tag,” or signature; teaching them how to use stencils; and finally spraying paint onto a wall.

The teaching team includes at least one young graffiti artist.

Portugal Elderly Graffiti Maria Rosa Correia, 70, attending one of the graffiti workshops. Source: AP

Similar courses are taught in Germany, and Seixo Rodrigues has received inquiries from France and an invitation to Brazil.

When the time comes to start spraying, 101-year-old Emilia de Jesus Teles and 90-year-old Ana Torrao are among those pulling on a white gown and green rubber gloves.

“We’re always learning,” Torrao said.

It’s good to keep learning until you die.

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About the author:

Associated Press

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