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.....



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.



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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each focusing on their interests but ignoring other areas they might encounter. Rather than isolate one particular area of a culture, Sandi and I try to be more inclusive, observing the countries we visit from every possible viewpoint. Refocusing attention on other aspects of what you see, hear, feel and smell expands individual experience to motivate unique thoughts and feelings, and that is where the creative process originates.

I spent years teaching art, so I view the world visually. I notice textures, patterns, the relationships of one object in nature to another and, of course, color. My other senses are also involved. I can hear the leaves moving in the wind, the rhythm of rain drops or hail as it hits the earth or my car. I can smell new-mown hay, fresh- cut dill, dinner on the table. I can feel these things as well. When we travel, all these environmental clues emit an emotional response that can motivate and lead us to activities we can continue after our arrival home.

The more experiences encountered, the greater the chance your impulse to be creative will develop. Perhaps you will notice something about a person’s situation that may suggest a solution to a long-standing problem. Or maybe you will write a poem or an autobiography or update a meal by creatively altering ingredients or complete a painting. Such is creativity. We never know what will motivate the thought process or how it explodes in our minds. It may take some time for these ideas to generate creatively. Some ideas take years to fully develop. Others are defined more quickly, but the urge to create in some way is generated almost immediately after a trip where strong motivational experiences are often encountered.

We never know which of these thoughts will lead to a successful exploration. That is how the experimental, creative process works. Those who are creative expect to flirt with failure but remain undeterred, continuing to explore until their curiosity is fully satisfied.

We never know which of these thoughts will lead to a success- ful exploration. That is how the experimental, creative process works. Those who are creative expect to flirt with failure but remain undeterred, continuing to explore until their curiosity is fully satisfied.

A recent technological program has been designed that equals the “playing field” for individuals who cannot easily travel. The use of virtual reality has been adapted for use with assisted living, adult day care programs and the isolated elderly person. Through the program, people will virtually “travel,” viewing foreign and domestic locations from the comfort of their own chairs. A large variety of programs will eventually become available to assist with exploration in the many areas we have mentioned. Travel if you can, use technology if you must – but get out there and experience life and begin thinking creatively.

Question: I know travel can be interesting and fun, but what lasting influences will remain?

Reply: It has been three years since Sandi, my wife, and I traveled to Dubai. Yet the experiences we encountered there – the art, architecture, landscape, culture and, most of all, the memories of the people and their hospitality – remain strong. We use travel for motivation, to gather memories that will further our curiosity and increase our thought processes and to document what we see and use creatively after our arrival home. We’ve taken several trips since our Dubai experience. Each one increased our self-motivation, expanding our will to explore new and unfamiliar experiences and people and, above all, to re-invent ourselves.

Travel offers a simple but unique way for senior adults to regenerate their creative ability. After all, Age Allows. It allows us the luxury to explore anything in any way we wish. Sure, we’d like to have fun, to let our hair down and relax and that is certainly an important aspect for any travel experience. But we can take so much more home with us. Why not plan to have experiences with longer-lasting effects, activities that can be continued on your return home? Travel offers opportunities to be creative and observe unique lifestyles and activities. It is a simple way to activate your curiosity and learn, learn, learn. Learn about food, crafts, painting, people and all aspects of life that might provide motivation to


to explore and experiment when you arrive home. Travel is a way to reshape a sedentary lifestyle.

Getting the most from a travel experience requires self-discipline and preparation. Sandi and I organize our pre-trip exploration as a general would prepare for a major military campaign. We immerse ourselves totally in the culture of the area or country/countries we will be visiting. We read about the locales we will go to. We watch DVDs and use the Internet to learn more and to identify major areas of interest to explore. We listen to the country’s music. We find out about the culture, political history and traditions of the area and we study the language. We focus our energy, identifying experiences that spur creative thinking and that will expand the scope of our life experiences to continue an active lifestyle in new and unique ways.

Our success has increased with succeeding trips, but it depends on the strength of our powers of observation and the way we interpret what we encounter. For example, an artist views what he sees differently than an auto mechanic would, an athlete differently than a teacher and a musician differently than a homemaker,


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