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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by social attitudes to a greater degree than the “young” old because attitudes about aging have changed. Attitudes – the expectation of what life should be – were formed decades before and remain the greatest deterrent to a creative lifestyle.


Examine today’s elderly population living in assisted living, independent living and nursing home situations and you will find some of them living their lives as society expects them to. It is for the most part a quiet existence with some activities provided by the facility. For many, it is a life similar to Liz’s. While change has occurred in many locations, most facilities have remained the same and offer only cursory attempts at high-quality creative thinking exercises. Most activities, in fact, limit opportunities for the development of creative thought by their very nature. They take a therapy approach instead. While therapeutic approaches by themselves can be valuable for a small number of residents, they do not expand opportunities for creative thinking beyond a few simple games, puzzles and basic craft and arts.


So what is a creative life? It is a life reawakened, a life free of inhibitions learned over the years. It is a life where creative thinking crosses all aspects of existence. It is a life uncluttered. It is a life that allows people to interact freely and without judgment with other people. It is a life designed to explore and experiment with new and exciting activities without fear of failure. It is a life full of joy. Join me in succeeding issues as we explore a variety of ways to expand your creative mind.


*Name change to protect the deceased.

A Mind Uncluttered: Using Creative Experience to Free Elderly Minds


I learned Liz* had passed away a few days ago at 95 years of age. At the retirement home, I’d come downstairs every morning, during the afternoon and occasionally in the evening, and there she would be – sitting in the same comfortable chair, sometimes asleep, sometimes talking with an acquaintance or occasional visitor, but almost always alone. She would sit there observing the world passing by, now and then acknowledging a passing “hello” from a neighbor but otherwise simply watching others and listening to their comments and conversation. Sometimes she and I would sit and visit for a few minutes. We would talk about current affairs, common interests and previous lives. These moments I cherished for their insights, memories and historic importance.


Don’t get me wrong. Liz was sharp, curious and intellectual. If she chose to, she could converse at the highest level. Liz was a teacher. She knew English and American literature and music. She was an accomplished writer. She had spent years in retirement.


So why, with such talent and experience, did Liz spend her time just sitting and watching as the world passed her by? Maybe she truly enjoyed people watching. Obviously there could be many reasons for Liz to adapt

WHAT IS A CREATIVE LIFE

her rather passive lifestyle. How many other older adults are forced into a similar rut, unwilling to use creative thinking, previous education and life experience to the advantage of society or themselves?


Living A “Life Expected”


We’d like to think society has progressed to a point where individuals are free to experience life creatively. But some older adults live a “life expected” – a life designed not by themselves but by circumstance.


Our lives are shaped very early by our parents, events in school, interactions with friends and relatives and by our successes and failures throughout our lifetimes. What shaped the lives of people born in the 1930’s is vastly different from what shaped the lives of those born in the 1960’s. They have differing attitudes, education, upbringings and experiences. Individual attitudes about work, religion, education and self-satisfaction have drastically changed. But social attitudes and expectations change at a much slower pace. Attitudes about how older adults should live their lives have remained basically static. The “old” old are affected

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