Then & Now: Portraits of the Elderly As They Once Were (PHOTOS)

My mom constantly tells me she doesn’t feel 58 years old. That it seems like just yesterday she was walking the halls of her high school.

It’s a hallmark of aging (and parenting): it goes by so fast.

If I close my eyes, I’m still that 19-year-old girl making her way across the college campus, and then I look at myself in the mirror — really look, instead of the cursory glance to make sure my hair looks okay and my mascara is still on my eyelashes and not ringing my eyes — and I realize that I’m not who I picture in my mind when I think of myself.

Same thing when I look at my children. I look hard and they’re not my babies anymore. I miss them, and they’re standing right there. It’s because I miss previous versions of them. The baby version, the toddler version. Gone forever.

But they’ll always be my babies …

We look at the elderly and think, They’re so old. But they look in the mirror and see themselves as they once were. It’s a concept photographer Tom Hussey captured so beautifully in his ‘Reflections’ series. The portraits feature elderly men and women looking at their reflections as they once were. The images highlight that not only do we all have a story, but that we all view ourselves in a specific way, regardless of our age.

The series was an ad campaign for a drug that treats Alzheimer’s disease by helping patients maintain long-term memories during the early stages of the horrific disease. Hussey was chosen for the campaign based on a photo he had taken of a WWII veteran looking in the mirror at the reflection of a younger man.

Hussey tells the American Society of Media Photographers, “I was talking with a WWII veteran, Gardner, about his life experiences. He was about to have his 80th birthday. He commented that he didn’t understand how he could be 80 years old as he felt he was still a young man. He just didn’t feel it was possible he could be 80 years old. I started thinking about a milestone age approaching for me, as I was nearing 40. I realized that everyone thinks of themselves at a certain age or time in life. I built a bathroom set and photographed Gardner staring into his bathroom mirror and seeing himself as a 25-year-old young man.”

The stunning portraits feature both old and young actors playing the part of the same person. In some of the staged photos, actual pictures of the elderly models are seen tucked into the setting, showing them how they used to look.

It’s a poignant series with a heartfelt message Dr. Seuss once captured so very excellently: “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

All photos used with permission from Tom Hussey whose work you can also find on his website,

  • Reflections 1 of 12
    elderly collage

    Click through for ten more stunning portraits.

  • Army 2 of 12

    "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves."
    ― George Orwell

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Pianist 3 of 12

    "Most people don't grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging."
    ― Maya Angelou

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Teacher 4 of 12

    "And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!"
    ― Audrey Hepburn

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Pilot 5 of 12

    "The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected."
    ― Robert Frost

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Scientist 6 of 12

    "Wisdom is the reward for surviving our own stupidity."
    ― Brian Rathbone

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Firefighter 7 of 12

    "It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone."
    ― Andy Rooney

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Student 8 of 12

    "You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing."
    ― George Bernard Shaw

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Welder 9 of 12

    "Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself."
    ― Alain de Botton

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Graduate 10 of 12

    "Old is always fifteen years from now."
    ― Bill Cosby

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • Nurse 11 of 12

    "Good thing I'm aging, otherwise I'd be dead."
    ― Ana Monnar

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

  • WWII Veteran 12 of 12

    This is the photo that started it all. The WWII veteran Tom Hussey was speaking about the passage of time prompted the idea for the series.

    Photo credit: Tom Hussey

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