Why a care home resident got her first tattoo at age 66

Why a care home resident got her first tattoo at age 66

BY Zoe McCarthy

21st Mar 2024 Life

3 min read

If you’ve been thinking of getting your first—or next—tattoo this World Tattoo Day, this story from a brave care home resident may provide the perfect inspiration
From challenging perceptions of the ways older people can express themselves, to choosing a design that means a lot to you, Rosemary shows the power of following your dream, whatever your age. Zoe McCarthy, Care Home Manager at Queensmount Bupa Care Home, tells Rosemary's tattoo story. 

Growing online search interest

If you’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo in your older years, you’re not the only one. UK Google search data reveals a growing number of older people are exploring the idea of getting inked, too.
"A growing number of older people are exploring the idea of getting inked"
In the last three months, online searches for “elderly tattoos” have increased by 26 per cent, showing that age really is just a number when it comes to self-expression. So, if you’re worried that you may be the oldest person in the tattoo studio, think again!

Rosemary’s story

Rosemary Genesta Louise Mendham
68-year-old Rosemary Genesta Louise Mendham is a resident at Queensmount Bupa Care Home in Bournemouth. Throughout her life, Rosemary has danced at a semi-professional level in various ballet productions.
Swan Lake, Cinderella, Snow White and The Sound of Music are just some of the shows she’s performed in. When asked about which show is closest to her heart, Rosemary commented: “Cinderella was certainly my favourite ballet performance. The story is so beautiful, and the music is so romantic.”
Rosemary has primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), but dance has always held a special place in her heart. “I first started dancing when my aunt taught me basic ballet techniques when I was five years old.” Rosemary commented. “I then went to dance school and have loved it ever since”.

Booking the tattoo

Rosemary and the team outside Hocus Tattoo Lounge
Rosemary—then 66—discussed her dream of having a tattoo at length with the staff at her care home. Although Rosemary was set on the idea of getting her first tattoo, at this point she wasn’t too sure what she wanted tattooing, or where abouts on her body she wanted to have it done!
Seeing Rosemary’s enthusiasm, staff at the home encouraged Rosemary to let them book her in for an appointment at a local tattoo studio, Hocus Tattoo Lounge in Bournemouth. The next step was choosing the tattoo’s design.

Choosing the design

Rosemary being tattooed
Settling on a design for her first tattoo was a simple decision for Rosemary—it had to be dance related!
After reviewing a list of dance-related designs, Rosemary chose a simple black outline of a ballerina, that she wanted tattooing on to her shin. Having been a ballerina herself for so many years, the commemorative shape of a dancer felt like a natural choice.
"Having been a ballerina for many years, the shape of a dancer for her tattoo felt like a natural choice"
Talking of ballet, Rosemary said: “I love how graceful it is and have always felt it to be the most expressive dance form. It’s a passion that has played such a huge part in my life”.

Why now?

When asked why she made the decision to get a tattoo in her sixties, Rosemary said it was the perfect blend of passion for dance and an abundance of support from her care home.
“I wanted a permanent reminder of my dancing days, as they were some of the happiest I’ve ever had,” Rosemary commented. “I’ve never been afraid of being different and I knew the team at Queensmount would support me, so I thought why not go for it?”.

The big day

Rosemary with her new ballerina tattoo
In May 2022, the day finally came for Rosemary to head to her appointment and fulfil her dream of getting her first tattoo. She was joined by a small group of supportive employees from Queensmount Bupa Care Home. Dawn Gooderham, Head of Laundry at the home, held her hand as Hocus tattoo artist, Callam, worked his magic.
"She couldn’t wait to show off her new ink to the other residents at Queensmount Bupa Care Home"
Rosemary was very brave throughout the tattoo process. Despite the shin being a notoriously painful place to get tattooed, she didn’t find the experience to be as painful as she was expecting, saying: “It didn’t hurt at all! They used some magic cream and I didn’t feel any pain—in fact, I was chatting the whole time”.
Rosemary was delighted with her first tattoo experience, and thrilled with the end result. She couldn’t wait to show off her new ink to the rest of the residents at Queensmount. She was the envy of the other residents—watch this space to see who else she’s inspired!   
Banner photo: Care home resident Rosemary got her first tattoo, then aged 66, of a ballerina
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