WRITING FOR SENIORS

Question: I love to read, and now feel I’d like to write. What do I need to know about writing

Answer: The ability to create as a writer – in fact, through any venue – depends on your perspective of what you see; an emotional connection to the subject that will motivate you; and your imagination. If you’ve ever had “writer’s block,” a period of time where words and thoughts do not seem to flow.....

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DEBBIE SLEDGE AND THE DONOVANS: A MUSICAL LEGACY

I was in the audience wondering what to expect from the large group of retirees slowly gathering on stage. I’ve sat through many concerts by professionals and mature choral groups and have heard both triumphant and disappointing performances. This group, more than 100 strong, looked somewhat ragtag. Looks are deceiving, but they are not a sign of musical talent. The group settled in and began tuning their voices. Introductions were made, the conductor entered the hall and the audience hushed.

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COMEDY CAN BE A PRESCRIPTION FOR RETIREMENT WELLNESS

Tears streamed down my cheeks. I could not stop laughing. I was watching a Jim Carey movie and yes, he was “beating himself up.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve laughed until I cried while watching a funny movie. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Henny Youngman, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and many more comedians have given me the gift of laughter.

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the cast under the age of 85, all acting and moving in unison, you’d probably think you were dreaming. Well, folks, older adults all over the country are involving themselves in theater, acting on stage and performing in musical reviews and musical comedies. They’re doing reader’s theater, storytelling, radio drama, playwriting and technical theater. It is no dream. It is a movement growing and diversifying, offering large numbers of senior adults hours of creative activity. Now creative senior adults can explore traditional theater as well as videography, animation, movement and music, historical drama and documentary. It is an explosion, a creative immersion unforeseen just a few years ago but now entirely possible for those with advanced skills or novices new to creative theater.


The senior adults I know want opportunities to laugh and be individually creative. They’re searching for satisfaction through many venues because they want to advance society and institutions in positive ways. Why don’t you?

Tears streamed down my cheeks. I could not stop laughing. I was watching a Jim Carey movie and yes, he was “beating himself up.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve laughed until I cried while watching a funny movie. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Henny Youngman, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and many more comedians have given me the gift of laughter.


We laugh at ourselves, at others, at situations, at the way others interpret everyday life, at politicians with their solutions to problems of living. Situation comedies such as “I Love Lucy” made us laugh on a weekly basis and standup comedians, observing humor in real life, make us laugh daily. Many people need to see and hear a more knockdown, roll-on-the-floor kind of humor before they give up and laugh. The pratfalls and visual comedy of Sid Caesar and Milton Berle made us laugh hysterically.


Laughter is “feel good” medicine. Buoyancy returns to our step, our mood changes and happiness returns. Laughter often displaces a dark mood and can turn a non-productive period into a better day for older adults who often fall into depression.


Some words I remember from an old song sung by Frank Sinatra describe my philosophy of life: “Laugh till you cry, live till you die.”

COMEDY CAN BE A PRESCRIPTION FOR RETIREMENT WELLNESS

I figure if you don’t laugh at life, you will instead cry. Why don’t we provide

 older adults the experience of laughter and comedy? How can we “keep them laughing”?


First, let’s get them laughing again. Why not bring Comedy Club comedians to a senior center or senior living situation? Many who do the comedy circuit are community minded and jump at the opportunity to donate their skills. Use them! Use the Internet to find programs, videos, humorous films or standup performances and begin a “Laugh Week” or even just a “Day of Laughter.” Design a class to explore the origins of comedy and its history. Offer a comedy-writing class or one on the psychology of laughter. Then host a showcase where senior comedians could do a karaoke- type “laugh-in” for fellow residents with the material they write. Or better still, teach residents and others to laugh at themselves, their relationship to the environment and their personal situations. The writing, study and performance of comedy is but one aspect of the performing arts.


If you were sitting in an audience watching a performance with not one member of

DONALD HOFFMAN

Donald Hoffman is the former director of the Donovan Scholars/ Council on Aging at the University of Kentucky and author of Arts for Older Adults: An Enhancement of Life.

more articles by donald hoffman