Not Your Average Grandparents

February 5, 2013

By Gabrielle. Photos by Roland Kaiser.

Angie Hiesl’s X-Times People Chair installation brings me giant joy! The artist perches senior citizens three to seven meters above the rest of us, where they simply pretend to go about the business of their ordinary daily lives: folding laundry, reading the newspaper, or having a snack.

To me, this goes far beyond elevating the mundane. I think it makes us re-evaluate the idea of the fragile, delicate elderly, don’t you? They’re brave!

Would your grandparents or parents have said yes if they were asked to participate in an installation like this? When Ben Blair and I lived in Greece, my mother and grandmother (who was in her late 70′s) visited us, and we took a boat to Santorini. Grandma Lucille road a donkey to our hotel that was perched on a cliff! I hope when we’re 70, Ben Blair and I will still be risk-takers.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria Baker February 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

I love it. Something about removing ourselves from expected roles…always welcome and always moving to me. Have you heard of the Superhero Grandma Therapy? It’s fantastic too…have a look if you haven’t see it.

I guarantee you’ll love it.


2 Maria Baker February 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

*seen it, that is.


3 Design Mom February 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Can’t wait to check it out, Maria! Thank you.


4 Giulia February 5, 2013 at 7:43 am

this is amazing, i love it when beautiful things have a message or when messages turn out to be beautiful things.


5 Shannon { A Mom's Year } February 5, 2013 at 7:44 am

Wow! Love it. My grandparents would totally do this–Grandpa Tony is nearly 88 and still climbs around on his roof fixing things. (Although I’m not sure my grandparents could sit still long enough to do this…!)

Your story of your grandmother riding a donkey reminds me of the time my family went tubing on a nearby river. Grandma was floating along just fine when all of a sudden she flipped over backward! She popped up laughing and I remember thinking the same thing you did: I want to be like that when I’m 70.


6 Design Mom February 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I love the river story! What an adventure.


7 ami@naivecookcooks February 5, 2013 at 7:45 am

Perfect! This makes me remember of my grand mother who is still daring! She writes poetry and runs a school!! You are so right that we hope we can be like them when we reach 70′s!


8 Becca F February 5, 2013 at 7:47 am

My grandma would have loved this!


9 Azra February 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

I love this installation. It is genius. Hope to be a risk-taker at an old age! I will show it to my in-laws (they are visiting).


10 Chi @ 106 February 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

What a great find! :D

I’d be too chicken to do anything so daring (I’m scared of heights!) but my husband and I intend to remain as as fun and eccentric – as we think we are now – for the rest of our lives.

I just love anything that flies in the face of stereotypes – none moreso than those relating to age, especially in today’s ageist society.


11 Design Mom February 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I think you mentioned you’re based in the UK, so you probably didn’t see it, but there was a fun commercial from Taco Bell during the Super Bowl about staying young. I liked it! I’ll see if I can find a link.


12 Kate Frishman February 6, 2013 at 10:01 am

Oh, I LOVED that commercial! To me, that is exactly how life should work – taking on new and different things as we age, instead of falling more and more into the familiar.
Here’s a link to the commercial on the ABC News website:


13 Lauren February 5, 2013 at 11:09 am

This is awesome and my grandparents would totally do it. They are my heros and every time I chat with them I find out more incredible things about their lives- like how they worked for the CIA before it was even called the CIA and lived in tents at the edge of the jungle to decode secret messages, or how my grandmother fell and cut her head (at age 80) while walking on a rope bridge on some remote island and was stitched up by the tribal doctor. My grandmother loves to tap dance, so that’s probably what she’d be doing in the chair :)


14 Design Mom February 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Working for the CIA? Wow! What fantastic stories. I love that you call them your heros.


15 Marie February 5, 2013 at 11:50 am

Love your phrase “giant joy”! This reminds me of the excellent cartoon I watched with my young siblings last night. Have you seen “Hoodwinked”? The grandmother is secretly an extreme sporter. Wonderful!


16 Ann February 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I tend to think when you are 70, you and Ben Blair will still think of yourselves as young, or at a stretch, maybe middle aged. :)


17 Design Mom February 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hah! I can just imagine it. We’ll be saying: 80 is the new 40!


18 Cassandre February 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

My husband’s grandfather would totally do this. I can see him working a crossword puzzle perched up on a wall somewhere. He started running 5Ks in his 60s and is still running them in his late 80s. I love how competitive he is; he is constantly talking about the “rascals” who beat him.


19 Rebecca Alexis February 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

This so celebrates the joi de vivre! i hope when I am older I will be brave enough to do something like this. currently, I am not sure if any of the boys’ grandparents would actually want to participate in something like this….well maybe the one with the taxidermied armadillo, maybe….xxoo


20 Christine Crosby February 7, 2013 at 7:29 am

With your permission, I’d love to re-post this to our blog site giving you and the artist full accreditation. Please let me know. Thanks.

Also, would like to give you a link to a complimentary subscription to our magazine – GRAND – The magazine for grandparents and their families


21 miss luna February 8, 2013 at 7:39 am

hi Gabrielle, I’m one of your French readers :) about one of the first comments on this article, the project is called Mamika: I invite you to check their website, it’s the story of a photographer/director that offered his beloved GrandMa some fun when she started to feel lonely and sad around the photo project. Great love story between these two, one great book and they’ve just gathered the money to do a short-movie around Mamika character :)


22 rachelle February 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

hi, that little sentence fragment “when Mr. Blair and I lived in Greece…” caught my eye- do you have any posts about Greece or when you were there? Because we go to Greece often with our kids to visit family I’d love to have any of your wonderful designer-traveler-parent advice/insider info to go on. Thanks! (LOVE your website- simply wonderful and more importantly, SO inspirational)


23 Gabriela March 22, 2013 at 8:28 am

It’s grate the job of this artist i love the photos so diferents of other , a see other pictures of grandmas to of the same artistist in this blog take a look if you wanna see more :) Alfalfa


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