My Mother who was creative all her life was most intrigued by pottery in her final years. She would spend hours in the basement of her home crafting jewelry, pots, cups and saucers, serving bowls and various other creations using clay; “playing in the mud” as my stepfather would dismissively refer to it. Nevertheless, she persisted and had a garage full of her creations. Some were beautiful, some were practical and useful and others were just a little weird, true manifestations of her prolific imagination – little creatures she called “whimsies”, all with their distinct soul and personality.
What drives us to want to create?
Seniors and Art go together. At a time when our lifespan has been shortened and we finally have the time to explore our creative impulse, we feel an urgency to use life remaining to express ourselves, validate our feelings, act out, be heard & make our mark while we can. For many, that inner self, that truly authentic self, ignored for so long is now being rediscovered. The act of creating can become compelling because not since childhood have we had so much freedom to explore our inner life and now we want to dust it off and begin. Seniors and art – the importance of creativity and self expression become a priority.
Universal themes are explored
Themes are things which bridge our humanity: the universal common experiences, concerns, our love of things beautiful, our horror of man’s depravity, life’s conditions which affect us all, and ultimately our connectedness no matter who we are or where we live. People paint to express these themes, or do so through poetry, or writing fiction; while others sculpt, and some compose music. A compelling need to express drives all works of art. A mysterious muse sits on our shoulder urging us to give expression to a very personal interpretation of the world around us.
What happens when we create?
Self esteem is enhanced through creative expression. We create something from nothing; we become builders, our authentic selves; a blank piece of paper fills with words and becomes a poem or the beginning of a novel, a canvas is flooded with colour and shapes, a lump of wet clay is moulded into something tangible, possibly useful, maybe even something beautiful…Problem solving and motor skills are tested. Our mind is active and we focus. We concentrate. There is an energy within us that demands attention when we have a creative impulse. To respond and create alleviates any boredom in our life and relieves the stress created by that nagging muse. It can be a catharsis of sorts. What once was an inner intangible impulse is now out there and has become a tangible item.
Feelings which are difficult to articulate can be expressed through art, its interpretation left to its audience. We take away from any work of art whatever speaks to us.
A close friend of mine who was First Nations once told me that her band believed that if you were born with a talent, which was interpreted as a gift…and you did not use that gift, it would turn its energy against you. In other words, there was a belief that any talent was energy waiting to make itself seen or heard.
Where do we join an artistic community?
So what do we do with this impulse to create? Today, information on becoming a member of any arts community is at your fingertips on Google, Facebook..or Linked In. In addition, many courses are now available online making art education available to those living in rural areas. You no longer have to live in a major urban center in order to become involved and educate yourself. That said, my personal preference is to socialize and learn in a group setting where everyone shares their experience and we learn from one another.
The importance of all art is now being recognized by the enlightened who administer Seniors Centres, Retirement Residences and Nursing Homes. Not many seniorsp are inspired by attending a Doughnut Social as is so well expressed by Tim Carpenter , founder of EngAGE who advocates for Thriving as we Age:
Art is something we can engage in over a lifetime
My Mother resided in longterm care for the last 11 years of her life, where she continued her art. At this point in life, into her mid 90s and having survived a serious head injury, cognitive issues rendered her creations somewhat childlike but they were colourful and whimsical and her creations filled the walls of her room, making it undeniably and uniquely hers.
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso – also known as Pablo Picasso created until his death at age 91. Apparently retirement from art and creation was not a part of his life plan.
And Einstein who died at 76 years of age expressed that had he not become a physicist, he would have pursued music studies and become a musician.
Each artistic endeavor has something to offer its practitioners: art being an exploration, a freedom zone – another reality.
Music improves connectivity in our brain – and the Acting profession with its emphasis on memory improves word search and listening recall.
People who have been traumatized are relieved of the stress of remembering when they document and journal their experiences. Writing is therapy and journalling about trauma apparently improves one’s immune system. The same holds true for listening to music. From Medical News Today, in an article by Maria Cohut, PH.D, Ms Cohut states “… music “may help to restore effective functioning in the immune system partly via the actions of the amygdala and hypothalamus. These brain regions are implicated in mood regulation and hormonal processes, as well as in the body’s inflammatory response.”
Dance is promoted as not only a pleasurable way to move but one which can enhance physical fitness. My Mother at 93 was still a Zumba enthusiast, wearing her signature earrings and dancing along with the younger seniors while unknowingly benefiting from decreasing her blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
When it comes to holistic health one might rightly assume that creative endeavours are on par with pharmaceutical interventions without the side effects.