The Elders are Coming!



Just like the world is waking up to global warming, the world sees the increase in an older population coming over the horizon, rapidly growing just like global effects.

The tremendous waste of the resource of older people will not be able to continue as we need their wisdom and expertise more and more to solve the issues of the world. In addition, advocates for better living conditions for seniors are speaking up, including the seniors themselves.

Some cultures already make use of elders and what they have to offer, out of necessity. In the last century, the trend in the United States is to warehouse, medicate, and disenfranchise elders. The culture of youth has taken precedence.

But with elder population increasing, their voices will gain more power. New industries are already rising that help us understand, care for, and use the resource of elders more efficiently and effectively.

In the above podcast, which interviews experts on the subject, the point is made over and over that we have to somehow change our view of what it means to age. Only this will improve conditions for elders and those who either benefit from what they have to offer, or are being drained of their own strength by keeping the myth that elders are not capable alive.

You can make a difference by getting to know an older person and finding out what they still can and want to do.

I am looking to help aging (meaning everyone) people realize their creative potential. Then if they live longer, the life will be worth living.



Too Old to be President?

By Winston Churchill, Politician and artist late into his life

By Winston Churchill, Politician and artist late into his life


"I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience," Ronald Reagan quipped when asked if, at 73, he is too old to be President.

Trump is seventy and Hillary no spring chicken. Obama still looks youthful leaving office if a couple of decades older looking than when he started. Are there real concerns with someone being president at a later age? Or taking up any profession for that matter?

Age brings wisdom if we learn from our mistakes and are self-reflective. Wisdom does seem more important than physical fitness, and we all know that some 20 year olds are in terrible shape, while some 90 year olds run marathons. But it is pretty hard to fake wisdom at a young age. Experience takes time.

To take up art later in life requires very little physical strength. Even failing eyesight can be a plus, and hearing is not too important. Does experience and wisdom help us learn painting or other art forms?

Usually wise people don’t give up when the going gets tough at first. They can see ahead and know trial and error will lead to success. But more than that, the wisdom of having experienced many things in life can lead to meaningful appreciation of subject matter, and the depiction of the natural world.

Many older people care less about public opinion and therefore avoid the ego driven side of art. They realize the process is the reward, and the product a nice side benefit.

Finally, older people are looking for ways to extend their mental abilities, and art does that. It prevents dementia and keeps those neurons activated. And it’s not so bad to have something to show for time spent, to build self-esteem.

While it may be too late to run for President, you can still become an artist no matter how old you are.

YOU are a work of Art

Fashion and attention to our physical image may seem shallow and unrelated to important issues like finding one’s passion, or being creative. But there are many benefits to taking time to look not only attractive, but to cultivate a look that communicates who we are.
Also as we age, sometimes we give up and just wear what’s easy and comfortable. This is a look in itself. It says: I mostly like to relax and am not looking to expand my world. It may seem futile to try to hold back the effects of aging. But there are many examples of older people who have an interesting image. When you are older, you have more to express because you have lived longer.
If a passive attitude towards image is allowed to go on for too long, it can cause a few problems. You may not be as inclined to go out and look for new adventures. You may repel people who could have been interesting and helpful to know: people have to judge a book by its cover until they get to know the person. So it may limit life’s possibilities.
No need to go out and buy Vogue magazine or spend a fortune. First step is usually throwing out ninety percent of the items in your drawers and closet. Then you can see clearly the things that you own that make you feel good and express your personality. The creative part is putting looks together, and then figuring out what might enhance the impression you are giving. Perhaps you need a new haircut or glasses. Don’t go forward until you work with a friend or expert to fine-tune what impression you want to give the world.
Yes it will take time and emotional effort. But the rewards will be a new attitude towards the future and interest in going places or meeting up with friends. You will attract positive attention, which fuels self-esteem. It fights depression and enhances energy.
You can be your own work of art physically, which will in turn stimulate your inner creative force. It will give the freedom to try new things and build a larger world. It can even be fun, discovering who you are in new ways.
Although artists sometimes like to wear all black, it is usually a stylized look with significant details, to enhance an already defined image created by hair, makeup, or accessories. Not because they think black will make them invisible or thinner. Chic, hip, European, mysterious, and serious can all be done in black. It’s just better not to dress dowdy black.
Have fun thinking about your new possibilities!  This place can help

Coming back to life

With my students at Institute on Aging in San Francisco, I discovered how powerful art can be to help bring back a spark in mildly demented adults. One gentleman, who was previously not interested in art classes offered at the center, came to life when offered watercolors and conversation about various famous artists. A whole story came out about his days in the 50's when he was an architectural student. His paintings were sophisticated, and he kept working long after I had to leave. Another woman, who barely spoke, instead got to work on a small landscape and showed she had surprising ability to handle the media. Others were able to be convinced to give it a try, and started to have fun, while memories of childhood evoked, happy smiles, and beautiful little paintings emerged.

Every week I hear new stories from these long-lived folks, art being a conduitto so many other aspects of a personal history. While some don't remember me from week to week, once we get started the paint and paper form their own relationship with the artists. Everyone is living fully in the moment, but also pleasant memories are uncovered and shared.

what art can do

Aging may be the new frontier, with cognitive scientists conducting studies along side of brain research to discover what can soften the effects of growing older. A study at the Mayo Clinic produced evidence that engaging in the arts can prevent cognitive impairment. 16.7 percent of artistically active subjects, as compared to 49.2 percent of non-artistically active subjects, had cognitive impairment.

They are not sure why, but because activities like painting use many parts of the brain, it is possible that new neuron pathways are being created to compensate for lost ones.

Taking up painting later in life can be daunting because the majority of the population believes you must have innate artistic talent to be successful. This is a myth in our culture. Actually painting can be learned just like learning another language. Anyone can get the benefits, which also include better physical health, less depression, and a new understanding of the world.

The time spent in painting sessions can be a journey to another world, with time and space suspended while full concentration on color, shapes and subtle details of the visible world engross the painter completely. Even physical pain can disappear when fully concentrating on translating a subject matter into the language of paint.

While some art classes for older people are not instructive, but just a safe place to play with paint and socialize, many people are capable of real art education. If one does not want to enroll in a formal art school and learn color theory, use of materials, composition and drawing, they can still find art classes that teach all these things at the pace needed for the student.

Another study shows that viewing and understanding art can decrease physical symptoms such as inflammation, because of the positive emotions, such as awe, evoked looking at masterpieces. The best way to appreciate art is to know how it is made, pointing again in the direction of art making decreasing aging.

Following discovers that elders can revive memory from having the right music program,  geriatric institutions are developing other art programs.  They find elders can use art tools for personal expression, and this can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, thus improving health and forestalling aging.

The sooner a middle aged or older person makes art making or art appreciation part of their life, the stronger these effects will be in turning back the clock. But even late in life, engagement in painting or other arts can improve the quality of life.