Creative Aging Expert

Summer 2011

In This Issue


Encore Institutes

Encore Creativity for Older Adults will be offering three performing arts institutes August 29 to September 2, 2011, at Chautauqua, NY.
    Encore Chorale Institute, conducted by Jeanne Kelly--Founder of Encore Chorale, the largest and fastest growing choral program for older adults in the country, and Dr. Barry Talley, retired musical director of United States Naval Academy.

    Encore Dance Institute, partnering with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

    Encore Theatre Institute, partnering with the Stagebridge Theatre.
The goal of Encore's Chautauqua Institution is to become the premiere summer location in the United States where older actors, singers, and dancers can explore the performing arts. The institutes attract adult students from around the country who want to learn a new art or perfect lifelong skills. Visit encorecreativity.org, e-mail jeanne.kelly@encorecreativity.org, or call 301-261-5747. This announcement came from The Positive Aging Newsletter.

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Passion and Aging

Passion is probably the last thing one associates with older people, so Heather Hill felt it was worthwhile sharing the words of two older women who had led full and active lives, living well into old age, and who wrote of their experiences of ageing. This article, written by Hill, appeared in the Latrobe University Gerontology Association Newsletter.

In Florida Scott-Maxwell's book, The Measure of My Days: The Private Notebook of a Remarkable Woman of Eight-Two, passion is a prevailing topic: " As we age we are more alive than seems likely, convenient, or even bearable. Another secret we carry is that though drab on the outside...inside we flame with a wild life that is almost incommunicable."

Passion is also experienced intensely by Elisabeth Polk. She eschews being "old," by which she means how we stereotypically think the old feel and behave. Instead, she retains her playfulness and enthusiasm, perhaps more so than the young because with age one knows how to savor and enjoy the everyday.

"I am considered an old woman--at least to a stranger looking at me. I can't believe it. I don't feel old. What is 'old'? If I can't laugh, heartily laugh, and enjoy little things, that must be 'old' behavior...I look at the fresh fallen, fluffy, soft, white snow and I want to touch it, taste it, put my face into it. I want to throw snowballs--a big one at the next passerby! Is this the proper behavior for an old woman?

"Can I cry? Yes, but I don't waste my time on trivia....There is so much joy in watching a young mother nursing her baby, watching stars come out and turning a dark sky into a shiny Christmas tree. Watching children running home from school, bursting with energy, throwing their schoolbags at one another. Telling them to stop is for old ladies. I watch and laugh. This is life. Dear God, keep me alive--not just living, and I shall never feel old."

Florida Scott-Maxwell worked as a stage performer, a writer of short stories and plays. She moved to Scotland with her husband, continued to write, raised a family, and at age 50 trained as a Jungian psychologist.

Elizabeth Polk, who died at 99, was one of the American dance therapy pioneers. Her passion was dance with children and she continued her work until she was 89 years old. She helped found Timelines, a non-profit organization created to promote the wisdom and creativity of elders. The above words came out of a weekly writing workshop in which she participated.

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Need Help With Your Move?

There is a new category of Senior Real Estate Specialists. These agents have received special training, making them better equipped to help older clients through major financial and lifestyle transitions involved in relocating or refinancing or selling the family home. They are knowledgeable in such areas as reverse mortgages, senior housing options, downsizing, universal design, as well as ways to use pensions, 401(k) accounts, and IRAs in real estate transactions. And if you need help from other professionals, they can put you in touch with qualified home inspectors, movers, lawyers, CPAs, and other experts. To learn more or to search for a Senior Specialist in your area, visit sres.org or call 800-500-4564. From Jim Miller, editor of Savvy Senior, Richmond Times Dispatch, March 20, 2011.

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Confronting Ageism

Ageism is an insidious ingredient in our modern culture and often goes unrecognized. It is the assumption that we know a whole group of people based on one characteristic--their age. Ageism is the new "ism" on the block. People seem to understand what racism and sexism are, but they draw a blank when you mention ageism. At my workshops on ageism, I encourage participants to become more sensitive to ageist remarks. When Bill Clinton turned 60 and declared that 60 was the new 40 I was really mad at him! Sixty isn't the new 40; sixty is the new 60! Get with the program!

I give a test called, "How Old I Think I Am" at senior conferences. The first question asks participants to fill in the sentence: "I have a body of a _____year old." Most audience members put down a younger age than they actually are. When I ask why they tell me, "I work out every week and have a strong body" or " am in good shape." I ask them "can't you be in good shape and have a strong body and be 68 years old? Why do you have to claim a younger age for your body?"

Ageism is something for all of us to think about. Because our culture so often glorifies the young, it is hard to avoid having ageist thoughts. I encourage those of you who work with seniors to assist your staff in becoming more sensitized to the issue of ageism and its adverse effects. I have materials to suggest if anyone is interested in pursuing this idea.

I personally have had several meet-ups with ageism. The nurse I saw while hiking the Appalachian Trail looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're too old to be carrying a heavy pack." The physical therapist who came to see me after breast surgery whose first words were, "Ms. Kimball do you use a walker?" And then there are those people who want to tell you how exceptional you are for your age. I just tell them I've always been athletic and outdoorsy as so many older people have been, and it's no big deal that we continue to be so in our 70s.

A good source of readings on Ageism can be found at oldwomensproject.org.

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Advice from George E. Vaillant, M.D.

In his book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, George Vaillant suggests these secrets of successful aging.

    "Don't read books about aging by 40-year-old people from Beverly Hills, but instead learn from people who are 85 and happy and who didn't get that way by having a good plastic surgeon.

    The key to successful aging is to widen your social radius. Going to the gym and making sure you have five servings of veggies focuses on you, and that just doesn't keep you warm when you're 70.

    The keys to growing old are gratitude and forgiveness--not a whopping IRA"

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Geezer Gallery Causes a Stir

Amy Henderson knew the name she chose would be provocative as she opened up an airy 1,400 square-foot space in Portland, Oregon, for artists over age 60. "It's memorable," she said of her Geezer Gallery. "It's edgy. Laughing at oneself is a sign of maturity." About 60 older artists have selected to display their work--paintings and prints, sculpture, photography, furniture, jewelry, ceramics--at the gallery itself. But there are many others who lend their art to traveling shows that visit retirement communities or exhibit at local businesses. "There are many older artists who found their passion after they retired," said Ms Henderson, probably one of the world's few interior designer-turned-gerontologists. "They're talented. They want to show their work and be appreciated." Read the whole piece by Paula Span.

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Correction and quote

Author Patricia McConnel wrote to inform me that the correct title of the book I wrote about in my last newsletter is Thriving Beyond Midlife (not middle age), written by E. Craig MacBean and Henry C. Simmons. This book is published by the Institute for Retirement Planning in Richmond, Virginia. She also sent some interesting thoughts that she described as her elaboration on a quote originally attributed to author Dorothy Sayers.

    "Time and trouble eventually tame many women who in their youths were spirited and rebellious troublemakers. But if a woman manages to survive into old age with that spirit intact, then no force on earth can budge her from where she has chosen to take a stand, nor deter her from declaring that the Emperor is naked."

You might enjoy reading her book Sing Soft, Sing Loud, a gritty realistic look at life on the street and behind bars. Her short stories have appeared in eight anthologies. Now almost 80 she continues to be the strong woman described above. More information at singsoftsingloud.com.

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More Adventure Writings

Since my last newsletter I have added two stories on ActiveWomanTraveler.com. If you scroll down on first column of the web site to "AWT Travelers" and click on "The Aging Adventurer." This link will lead you to "The Allagash River Canoe Trip," a story about a trip I did with Elder Hostel in Maine with five seniors ages 70-80, and to another piece on the Bike New York Five Boro Bike Tour--where 30,000 cyclists ride in streets and over bridges with no cars allowed.

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Catching Up

Sorry to be so late with this edition of my newsletter. Spring seemed to turn into summer very swiftly. April found me at the South East Tennessee Conference on Aging in Chattanooga where I gave a keynote and two workshops on Confronting Ageism and Going for Your Dreams. In May I was one of the general session speakers at the Oregon Alliance of Senior and Health Services. Just returned from a week at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's bi-annual conference where I showed my slideshow of my bicycle trip across the United States. Great fun, and lots of folks in the audience who are considering - or at least dreaming about - making that cross country trek. Looks like I might be speaking in Kansas in November if all goes well, and I will be addressing the Senior Network and the Appalachian Trail Club in my hometown. I hope your summer is going well and is filled with new adventures.

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