Long ago your mom probably first taught you how to use a crayon. That led you to a world of art making, finding out what happens when you crayon on the wall, and the hundreds of experiences that were colored and guided by your one and only mom. You were the one that needed extra help then and mostly you got it.
The balance is gradually changing and you are the stronger one now. Mom won’t always be able to work a job she loves, and eventually other options will go by the wayside: physical strength and perhaps mental alertness slowly will taper off. But if mom is still alert and able to get around, she may be in the growing category of elders that are still alive and kicking, but have less on their calendar.
You might be the highlight of her day, if you call that often. Or week, if you manage it then, or month if that’s all you have time for. She might be comfortable and safe but not have enough to do. If she needs extra household help, perhaps you got it for her. But isolation is the key problem of growing older. Children move far away, friends die, and other friends are hard to get to.
Even if you have her in a great retirement home, or with plenty of assistance in her own home, she might have some pretty empty weeks. People are living longer and healthier now, but society has yet to cope with the dilemma of what this growing population will do with their ten, twenty or thirty years past their working life.
Back in the day, women with means hired what was called a ladies companion to keep her company, help her with little choirs and accompany her on travels. Something like the role a governess played for children, her job was to keep life interesting. People with the means now can have the equivalent.
Your mom wants to keep growing and learning and the experts say you have to use it or loose it: mentally and physically. Plenty of people get this message and take yoga or senior exercise classes. They read books or take an on line course.
What can you do to enhance the quality of life for your mom while she can still enjoy things? One of the most satisfying and transformative activites is developing one’s artistic side. Anyone can learn and enter the world of artists’ view of the world. Most people do not realize they have the possibility of making high quality art, not just enjoy looking at it. They think you need talent.
Senior centers always have an arts class of some sort. Most have extremely low expetations of the students and think it is just a pastime. This is an insult to the intelligence and potential of mature people. They are not preschoolers that just want to play with paint. Or at least, if they knew what was possible, they would choose real art making over arts and crafts.
Art can give meaning to any phase of life. It is like learning a new language to understand color theory, composition, value sensitivity, and the impact of these in combination. Although painting is not magic, it seems so once you have the tools under your control, just like any other art form. You can fly llike there is no gravitiy if you learn dance technique and practice, or play from your heart once guitar chords are automatic. Also you can express your response to the world: visible and internal, once you know how to use the elements of visual art making. Like learning a language you join a whole new culture.. The great thing is that it doesn’t take a lot of physical strength to paint.
A painting session is absorbing and brings up many thoughts about life and the world. One is tired after, but changed and exhilarated with a new lens on problems or the past and future. Art making bridges the gap between external and internal worlds: the internal world of a long life lived that is vivid and begs for a meaningful reflection as we age.