Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyAmy Gorman

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Amy Gorman

Broadcast: 4-1-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Art keeps us young by lifting our spirits, challenging our minds, and giving us perspective. Today’s guest, Amy Gorman became fascinated with artists in their nineties and hundreds. That inspired her to profile twelve artists in her book, Aging Artfully and the documentary film about the artists titled Still Kicking. She is a sculptress, an historian, and a storyteller. Her career has spanned all age groups from developing and being Executive Director of Kidshows for eighteen years to being a medical social worker with dementia patients. In the first part of the show, we’ll learn about artists she has studied. In the second part of the show, we’ll focus on how you can pursue art to help keep you youthful and fulfilled. Her website is http://www.agingartfully.com/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each show I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results.Perhaps Ponce DeLeon never found the fountain of youth because he was looking for magic water. Judging from how many people in their hundreds are artists, the fountain of youth may well be art. Art in its many forms lifts our spirits, challenges our minds, and gives us perspective.Today’s guest, Amy Gorman, became fascinated with artists in their nineties and hundreds. That inspired her to profile twelve artists in her book, Aging Artfully, and the documentary film about the artists titled Still Kicking. Amy Gorman’s career has spanned all ages. She developed and for eighteen years was the executive director of Kidshows, a nonprofit organization that introduces children to the arts. She’s been a medical social worker with dementia patients. She’s a sculptress, a historian, and a storyteller. In the first part of the show, we’ll learn about the artists she studied. And in the second part of the show, we’ll focus on how you can pursue art to help keep you youthful, creative, and fulfilled. Amy, how did you get from working with children to working with seniors?

AG: Well, I think when my son was in nursery school, I heard a psychologist come to the school and talk to the parents. And she was addressing, of course, parents – all the kids were three and four. And she said that – she was taking care of her older parent at the time – and she said, “You know, I’ve been thinking, if I didn’t work with children, I would work with older people.” And that always stuck with me. And then I was producing shows, introducing very young children to the arts, because that’s where my passion was. And I’m also a social worker and I worked for many years with older people as a social worker. So I saw the downside; I saw a lot of older people ill with dementia, with Alzheimer’s Disease. And I loved it. I loved working with the older people. So I always had a voice in the back of my mind and I said, “Okay, I’m doing it.” And then this project was, oh, a combination of things. It satisfied something I wanted to do from the story I just told you, but also it was because I was a sculptor, and as many artists confront, I was stuck in my sculpture, as I like to think of it. And I really wanted to speak with older people as role models. I wanted to get some guidance from them. And here I was, 62 when I began the project. So I went looking for the next generation.

MB: When you say “stuck,” you mean you hit an artistic block?

AG: Yes, I kept thinking I was on a plateau. That’s something, I think, that all artists go through.

MB: So did the older artists get you unstuck?

AG: They certainly got me thinking and doing something different creatively. And yes, that absolutely got me unstuck. At first I went off on the other tangent, interviewing and writing about them. And all the while, I was doing my sculpture.

MB: So how has your sculpting changed as a result of working with them?

AG: Oh, I suppose I’m just happier with it. I’m happier with the process. I think that’s it more than anything. The process doesn’t get me so upset anymore.

MB: So some of it maybe was, “If they can do it, I can do it?”

AG: Well, I think – yeah, maybe so. Maybe that’s it. Or maybe I had this creative burst with the writing of the book and working with the film. So I saw that creativity comes when you least expect it. And of course, I was in my sixties, and it’s never too late to start something new. It was a whole new experience for me.

MB: Well, sixties is just a kid.

AG: Yeah, exactly, exactly. It certainly felt like that, talking to nineties and hundreds.

MB: So how did you find these women?

AG: That’s a very curious question. It’s really word of mouth. I woke up one morning – I say this in the book – I work up one morning and age was on my mind. And that’s exactly what happened. So the whole thing was very organic. I mentioned my interest to a friend who was a composer and a pianist. And she asked me if I knew Lily Hearst. Lily was over 100 and playing the piano every day at the senior center in Berkeley, California, where I live. So I said, “I don’t know Lily but I’d love to meet her,” because when I talk about art, I’m talking about all the arts, not just the visual arts.

MB: Right.

AG: So we went to meet Lily and it was her 105th birthday. And truly, Michael, I just fell in love with her. She was completely with us in the room and you could have a conversation with her about anything. She was just wonderful. Of course, it was hard getting a meeting with her. She was busy. And I said, “I need more Lilys in my life.” I wanted more Lilys in my life. I wanted to surround myself with Lilys – very, very active, wonderful people in their hundreds. There she was. We had just listened to her play the piano. She played every day before the lunch hour. It was wonderful. And then I started mentioning it to other people, and they said, “Oh, do you know so-and-so? She’s over 90 and she’s a writer.” Or, “Do you know Frances? She’s a painter and she’s in her nineties.” And so on, and on and on. People – when they heard this, they thought of somebody and said, “Go speak with her,” “Go see her,” “Go see her.” It just unfolded that way.

MB: And the word of mouth probably contributed to getting such a wide variety of artists, I mean different types of art.

AG: Exactly. And once I realized that this was something I wanted to write, I wanted to bring it out to the world, I started making sure and rounding out the people whom I was seeing – I wanted a variety of art forms, I wanted a variety of personalities, and all kinds of diversity.

MB: Did you see anything in common with the artists that you studied?

AG: Yeah, I like that question. I did. I think one of the important factors in the women I interviewed is that they do not think about the negative very long. As it is said in some of the literature, they can shed stress. They don’t focus on the negative. They move on. They’re very busy – that’s another factor. They’re busy all day. They’re living right here, in the here and now, and they want to live that way. They don’t ruminate about past ambivalences or conflicts. They’ve passed that. And they’re really content to explore the here and now. And it is great to be in their presence. So that’s another common trait. They’ve also got a sense of humor, every one of them, and want to do their art every day. They have schedules. They’re quite disciplined people in their own way. They have schedules. They have a lot to do. And their art is part of their lives – very, very definitely. The people I interviewed all wanted to work at their particular art form. And it’s part of their regular schedule.

MB: The characteristics you’re talking about are common in vital centenarians, whether they’re artists or not.

AG: Exactly.

MB: I wonder if there’s a chicken and egg thing that the art helps them live longer, or does taking up art do that for people?

AG: Well, it is – we don’t know, do we? It is a kind of chicken and egg question. But we can only speculate that the art certainly helps give a purpose – I think purpose is very important in one’s life in general, all kinds of purpose. It does not have to be art. But with these women, it was art as one of their purposes. They had – they were interested in many different things. Many of them were writing letters to their congress people.

MB: What do they want from the congress people?

AG: Oh, various things. It would range from putting elevators in the metro, in the BART stations in the San Francisco Bay area. You know, political candidates that they were supporting, the war – we started this right around the time of the Iraq War, so they had their opinions, one way or the other. They’re busy.

MB: And some of them were on one side of the war and some of them on the other, or…?

AG: No, I would say that they were all on one side of the war, at least the ones that talked about it. One of the women in the book, Dorothy Toy, has a fascinating history. She’s still teaching dance. I went to her 90th party a few months ago. And she has students coming to her house, so she keeps busy that way. Another of the women who was a dance teacher and still had a dance studio but was in a wheelchair, and so she started teaching piano in her nineties. And she had – when I was interviewing her, she had seven students plus another teacher in the studio in back of her house taking care of all the dance students, but Ann was teaching piano, so that’s part of her routine.

MB: Are there ways in which they were different?
AG: Oh, I think, like any sample of people, you’ll see their personalities, of course, are all very different. And their history – they’d all had tremendous suffering in their lives of one sort or another. They are not women who had easy lives.

MB: Yeah, a lot of people have the assumption that people are living longer because we’re just lucky and had it easy, and it’s often quite to the contrary – they’re very tested people.

AG: Exactly. You learn to cope with – in fact, one of the women said – I’m remembering now – she said once you’ve had a serious tragedy really in your life and you’ve gone through it, you can manage with anything, because you learn coping skills.

MB: Can you describe some of the women? Maybe some of your favorites?

AG: Oh, sure. I couldn’t pick favorites, but I’ll mention a couple who actually were not in the film. In the film, all the women are between 90 to 106, the film Still Kicking. One of them who is not in the film has a great quote. This is Isabelle Ferguson, who was a painter and an illustrator, and at the age of 86 had always wanted to be an actor. There is a senior theater company, Stagebridge, in Oakland, California, fortunately, for people over 55. And these theater companies are spreading around the company, so if you’re interested in theater, anybody in the audience listening, you probably can find something in your community. But Isabelle, at the age of 86, had decided she wanted – she had always wanted to be an actress, so she joined. And she just had the best time. She’s a very funny person – I mean, humorous. She comes up with jokes all the time. She says, “Old age is hot right now. They don’t know what to do with us.” So she understands what all the talk is about and what you and I are interested in. She was fortunate to be part of this theater company when – they actually went to Las Vegas in her first show she was in, was called to Las Vegas. There was a convention of senior theater companies from around the country. So she just had a great time.

MB: Now you’ve got me really curious about these theater groups. What kind of repertoire do they do?

AG: You know, it will depend, from what I know. I mean, there’ll be scripts – the directors of the companies will find scripts, and oftentimes – in this theater company – people write their own stories, which is very therapeutic, and people love to hear about them. In this particular group, they go out to the schools and tell their stories to school kids. So it’s not a real theater company where you’re doing serious drama and people come. They may be doing children’s theater, for example, children’s plays, and they’ll mix the older – the seniors with some kids, so you have a family audience coming. There is a whole variety. I think it would depend on the bent of the director and what the director wants to do and what the people want to do who are taking the classes or joining the company.

MB: I’m delighted to hear that they’re creating their own things and telling their stories, as opposed to trying to do “12 Angry Men” and having people say, “Well, that’s not bad for somebody in their nineties but it’s not quite as good as if Tom Cruise had done it.”

AG: Exactly. I think the goals are very different – at least in this local theater company. I love the idea of seniors telling their own stories, especially to school kids. And then, you know, they have a lot of fun with costumes, because that is so much a part of theater. And some people are interested in making the sets, so they work behind the scenes.

MB: Well, there are a lot of shy seniors, sure.

AG: Yeah, yeah, to want to a join a theater company, you have to feel that you want to be in front of an audience – that’s often a stumbling block to a lot of seniors.

MB: Well, at any age.

AG: Yeah, exactly.

MB: How do the school children respond to these stories?

AG: Oh, I think the numbers of kids, at least in this area, who have heard the stories is vast – I mean, thousands. They do dozens, hundreds of shows in schools. They’re marvelous. They love it. I mean, you know, you’re not going to get every kid loving every performance, and each of the seniors has a different story to tell. But there are some classes that want them back, and there are some classes that have a kind of grandparent – they pair up the school kids with the seniors; that’s another idea. They’ve done many shows with kids, where they rehearse together and they perform together. Isabelle did that and she absolutely loved it, especially that her picture got in the local paper.

MB: So this led to a number of ongoing relationships between the seniors and the school children.

AG: Exactly, exactly.

MB: Wow.

AG: Yeah, and sometimes year after year.

MB: One of the people you studied was a storyteller, which people don’t usually think of as the arts. Can you tell us about storytelling?

AG: There are many professional storytellers, and there are these great storytelling conventions. You get marvelous storytellers. Remember, of course, Native Americans – we have a long tradition of storytelling and oral history being passed down. And many of the storytellers I have met over the years are very sad about the loss of that oral tradition. So one of their goals is to reinvigorate it. And you can imagine – just picture sitting in the library, even on, you know, Halloween, when you get the scary stories, and the kids are just mesmerized. And it’s starting out with library story time when you have librarians, and then this tradition has grown and blossomed. You have some really amazing storytellers who are actors truly or they’re – you know, which comes first, the actor or the storyteller? And often music is involved. You can have an accompanist with a drum, very quietly, or a flute – I’ve heard that, too. I just happened to meet a storyteller who used to run a local radio program, and she used to read stories to the kids and tell the stories, as well. And she had the kids on the radio – it was absolutely marvelous. And she died at 90, but up until the day she died, she was going to the schools, telling stories.

MB: Wow.

AG: She was not a performance artist. There are many storytellers who are truly performance artists, and they’re marvelous – if you ever have a chance to see one or if something comes to your neck of the woods. There are two storytellers in the book, out of the twelve women. And the other storyteller, she does go to festivals. And she’s a real character, eccentric person who talks to people in the street and tells them stories – short stories – from her stack of wise stories.

MB: You know, there was some fascinating research where they had listeners here – young adults telling stories and seniors telling stories, and they couldn’t tell which was which, but they rated the seniors as better storytellers because they had more emotion, more passion, they told more interesting stories. And I think that comes at a time in life where you step up to being the patriarch or the matriarch of the family to pass on the family stories and traditions.

AG: That’s right. That’s very well said. I think that goes along with telling your own life story and the life of you, which is such an important part of living and such an opportunity we all have to go through our life review. And so you integrate different parts of your life psychologically – it’s so healthy, and why I think it’s encouraged now, certainly in assisted living and nursing homes. We can do that before – we don’t have to wait until we’re 80 or 90 or 100.

MB: Well, it should be a lifelong process.

AG: Exactly. That’s true, too. That’s right. We certainly start in school, writing the stories about me – you know, when you’re three or six years old, “My Story,” and then we lose that somehow as we get into upper grades in college, it’s not so much personal-

MB: We lose it when we start calling it a resume.

AG: There you go.

MB: Tell me about some of the other women that you worked with?

AG: Faith Patrick is a folk singer. She’s still jetsetting at 92 now. She’s going across the country. She sings at folk festivals. She’s the only person I communicate with by email. The others don’t do email. But Faith writes a column every two weeks, I believe, for one of the national folk song magazines, Sing Out. And she’s very well-known within the folk community, and she’s a wonderful character. She lives in a great old San Francisco Victorian house. Currently her granddaughter is living with her, but otherwise she’s been living there alone, and they still meet on Friday nights and sing – the whole community sings, plays instruments. Oh, many marriages have come out of that house, apparently – people meeting each other at the folks sings.

MB: See, she should’ve been a minister, too, and could’ve earned some extra money that way.

AG: Yeah, well, that’s true. That’s an idea. Maybe she’ll start that now, Michael.

MB: There you go. Does she have a special role in the community?

AG: Oh, she has. Oh, yes. She certainly does in her folk singing community. She started a San Francisco folk club. And oh, you know, there are just hundreds of people who have gone through that, because this is many decades back. And importantly, Faith – as many of the people I wrote about – did not start until retirement. That’s an important message that I’d like to get across: It’s never too late. She started singing and touring really after she retired. Frances Catlett started painting after she retired; Frances will be 100 this July. In fact, you’ll see a photo, if you get AARP Magazine, in the March-April issue, page 75.

MB: Okay.

AG: And it mentions the Still Kicking film.

MB: Oh, wonderful.

AG: So there’s a photo of Frances.

MB: Well, that’s only going to publicize it to, what, about 20 million people? Or is it a lot more than that?

AG: Oh, it’s tiny, you know, it’s an inch square, whatever. But there’s a big retrospective of her paintings now in the city and they’re going to have a big gala, 100, for her. And I guess that’s why AARP – but it isn’t because she’s going to be 100. And she bowls twice a week. She drives to her bowling. So she also fits in with the remarkable centenarians, except – well, she’s one of the 6% of the centenarians who have had cancer. She survived cancer 20 years ago – stomach cancer, I believe.

MB: Oh, wow. Who else did you interview?

AG: Did we talk enough about Lily? Lily, who broke both legs at 88 as a skier. Lily was the 106-year-old pianist.

MB: Oh, geez.

AG: But Lily was – well, she was a mountaineer. She was the first woman, with her sister, to wear pants like the men. All the women then were wearing skirts when she skied. She’s Austrian. She escaped when the Germans came in, in 1938. She was very fortunate to escape. Lily was a Viennese Jew, when she came in 1938, and spent the rest of her time in this country. And well, really, a marvelous skier, mountaineer, hiker. But when she broke both her legs at 88, she turned to hiking because she could no longer ski. She broke them in a car accident. But she played – until three weeks before she died, she played the piano. She was a remarkable role model. Dorothy Toy I mentioned earlier, had a fabulous career as a tap dancer. She was born Japanese, and because of the war, passed as Chinese with the Toy. As she says, it was shorter and fit on the marquee. But she and her Chinese partner toured the world, and during the war had to stay away from California because of the Japanese internment. So she had quite a history. And she is still teaching dance, ballet – mostly ballet and modern. And she teaches the Chinese – she’s had two Chinese husbands, which is very unusual. And she did speak Japanese – her mother lived with her for a while. And she’s just a small person, beautiful, trim, a pleasure to be with.

MB: Does she still dance herself?

AG: She doesn’t perform. She choreographs for groups. She does fundraisers for local community groups, for the church, or for some local groups supporting seniors, who are helping seniors. And they do fundraisers and she choreographs their shows. That’s how she likes to spend her time.

MB: So she’s up on her feet showing a dance step and-

AG: Yeah, oh definitely, because she’s got these students coming to her house, both adults and young adults.

MB: Why did you choose to focus just on women?

AG: Oh, Michael, I suppose I was looking for role models. That’s the truth. I can’t tell you how many men asked me to write a book like this about men. I was speaking recently and this very poignant moment – most of the audience was female but there were a handful of men. And one of them really said, “You know, women have an easier time talking about aging. You’ve got to do this for men. Men have got to talk about this.” And another man said, at another presentation, afterwards said, you know, he was so moved by the movie and the talk, he said, “I’ll never look at an old woman the same way again. You never know what’s behind that face!”

MB: So you’re creating more romance again.

AG: Yeah, that’s true. A lot of close-ups in the film, so you see the women up close. We don’t get a lot of positive images of aging.

MB: Right.

AG: You know, the old adage, women are invisible after they’re at 55 or so.

MB: Well, they used to be. They’re not standing for it anymore.

AG: You’re absolutely right. Well, the Boomers are speaking out and giving the older folks a little bit of space, a little bit of show, like they don’t see too many really older people in the movies or on TV, except when we look at disease, we look at the downside of aging. And it’s real – I don’t want to deny it. It’s very real.

MB: There have been a number of movies – Driving Miss Daisy and Cocoon and the Art Carney movie and so we’re starting to see more of them with the seniors taking a role that has some meat to it and some message to it.

AG: Yes, and notice that we can count them on one hand or maybe two, so we can remember them because they’re outstanding and we notice that, “Oh, here’s one with older people,” and it’s so unusual. I agree, it is happening more and more.

MB: Now, if I wanted to see Still Kicking, where would I find it?

AG: You can find it on Amazon. You can find it on – Greg Young is the filmmaker and his website is GoldenBearCasting.com, GoldenBearCasting.com.

MB: And how did you get hooked up with a movie?

AG: Oh, that’s a great story. Orunamamu, which is the Nigerian name for Mary Beth Washington – I was interviewing her and she invited me to a screening of the film – Greg Young had just completed a film of her. He followed her around for two years, watching her every move and trying to clear out her house, which is overcrowded, shall we say, overstuffed, and she wanted to make it into a storytelling museum. Anyway, she invited me to the screening along with Frances Kandl, the composer, and there was Greg. He was ready for his next project. And he asked me if he could be the fly on the wall and come to my interviews. So I said, “Sure.” We didn’t know it was going to be a film at the time. We didn’t know it was going to be a book. But Greg got excited about filming the women that I was interviewing. Frances Kandl was completely inspired after meeting Lily, the pianist, and went home and wrote a song about her life. And then she wrote songs about many of the women. And there’s a CD in the back of my book, “Seven Songs of Women’s Lives.” The songs are stories about the lives. And the purpose is simply to celebrate our elders. It’s been a wonderful project. See, her music is also part of the film, and we had many concerts – you will see some of that in the film – honoring the women and singing their songs, singing their lives in song. So it’s been a lot of fun.

MB: Sounds like it.

AG: Yeah. And Frances – oh, I guess she was about 70 when she wrote the music so she has another, what, 30 or 40 years to go.

MB: Great.

AG: A lot more music.

MB: We’re talking with Amy Gorman, author of the award-winning book, Aging Artfully, and subject of the documentary film Still Kicking. Her website is – not surprisingly – http://www.agingartfully.com/. It has pictures and excerpts from the book and more about Amy in the film. Amy lives in Berkeley, California, and speaks and gives presentations on her work. If you’re interested in anti-aging psychology, sign up for my free Defy Aging Newsletter at NotAging.com. If your company or association would like to cure grumpy old men syndrome in the workplace and have more optimistic, upbeat, youthful employees who are more productive and need less sick leave and less health insurance benefits. Information on that is at Anti-Aging-Speaker.com. Amy, for all the Boomers and seniors who say, “Oh, this is great stuff but I don’t have any talent, so it doesn’t really apply to me,” what would you say?

AG: The good news, Michael, is that as age, we seem to lose the negative piece in our life, the negative emotions, and the little voice that says, “You can’t do it.” That seems to disappear, and the positive emotion remains. There is a lot of research now that Roberto Cabeso, I believe, at Duke University, has been doing research that talks about the two sides of the brain. We think about the intuitive right side and the literal left side, the analytical left side. But as we age, they come together and they work together. So it actually makes creativity easier as we age, which is a fascinating concept. When you’ve got the intuitive and the analytic working together, they don’t have to struggle or fight each other so much. It’s more natural. And that, coupled with the fact that we maintain our positive emotions more easily as we age and the negative ones seem to disappear, you can try anything, because it becomes easier. You’re not so hard on yourself. I think that’s really what a lot of people have said, apart from the neurological research. So I would say, “Try it. You never know what’s going to happen.” And the classes are increasing, because there’s research coming out now indicating that people are truly healthier when they’re involved in creative activities. They visit doctors less frequently, they take less medications – it’s not surprising.

MB: So one of the easiest ways to get started is to just take a class.

AG: Yes, take a class, socialize with other people, go to the senior center. I mean, this is for seniors. There are other ways to do it when you’re younger. But when you’re a senior and you’re looking for things to do, the best resources usually are the senior centers or the recreation centers in your community. Often the libraries have a lot of good ideas. I love libraries. Depending on your community – you know, there may be an art center. Or dance – dance is wonderful when you’re older. You’ve got to do the movements as well as using your brain and you get exercise. There are all kinds of wonderful dance programs. Guess which one, Michael – guess which form of dance is supposed to be the best for your health?

MB: I have no idea.

AG: Well, there’s even research on that, and it’s the tango.

MB: Oh!

AG: Yeah, because it requires a lot of thought, a lot of movement, and involves different parts of your being. Not everybody’s going to start to tango, but it’s something fun to think about.

MB: And for the men, if they’re willing to dance, they’ve got the choice of the women.

AG: There you go, there you go, right. In any form of dance, isn’t that true?

MB: With your art background, if somebody, say, 65 years old, said, “Well, I’ve retired. I want to try this art thing.” How do I decide whether to take a class, maybe at the university or a community program or to go to the senior center? Are there certain personalities or styles that would fit better with different programs?

AG: Try one and see if you like it. Usually when people think about what it is they want to do, they say, “Oh, I don’t want to do that, don’t want to do that, but maybe I’ll try that.” You know, maybe you’re interested in photography, maybe you want to get your hands in clay, maybe you want to learn a new instrument. Many people, if they have played an instrument in the past, they may pick it up again in retirement and join a local community orchestra. There are wonderful extended learning programs now in almost every community, where – some people like to work alone, let’s not forget that, or with a group of friends at home. I mean, look at the old quilting bees.

MB: It’s probably a matter of what are you most comfortable with and who do you most enjoy being with, and how large of a group do you enjoy being with?

AG: I think those are good questions. Cost often enters into it, as well, and scheduling – if you like to work in the morning or if you prefer going out in the evening – all of those factor into it. I like to look at community bulletins and see really what’s available when I’m ready to do something. And I hope that your listeners take this to heart and nudge each other to get out there and try something new. So much of the research these days indicates that challenging yourself to do something new is one of the secrets to good health and longevity. It’s got to be new. The old stuff is not going to challenge us enough.

MB: You’ve organized a lot of things. Any tips for people who want to get something going in their community, not sure where to start?

AG: They certainly can email me and I’ll try to help.

MB: Oh, how nice.

AG: Yeah. See, I love to help people do that. But there’s a wonderful organization, the National Center for Creative Aging, NCCA.org, if you use a computer. National Center for Creative Aging just moved to Washington, DC from New York. They have satellite groups around the country and they are expanding. That’s one place to start if you want information about where there may be programs, art programs.

MB: So if their community has one of these satellite programs, what would happen if they went to a meeting?

AG: That would depend on what the program is. It may be bringing dance to dementia patients. It may be working in a senior center with a painting class. They really vary across the country in the different programs. It depends on the teacher, it depends on the personnel in that city.

MB: You brought up dementia. Have you seen art help people with dementia?

AG: Definitely, definitely. People have done amazing things with dementia and art, with dementia and music, and with dementia and dance. There are people around the country who are creating these programs. As soon as we get more research really pulling together the value of creativity and arts activities with health, more and more programs can be funded. That’s the goal of many professionals working in the arts and aging area, trying to get more and more programs funded because they see that people are healthier when they are engaged in these activities. So starting when you’re healthy, before you hit dementia – you know, it’s amazing how many people do have dementia over 85, it’s about half – that’s a big statistic. But many won’t. And even with dementia, the art programs have brought amazing results. First of all, it makes people happier doing the art, whether they have dementia or not. That increases morale, generally, and overall health.

MB: I have to admit a bias. I’m so turned off by things like Bingo. And I love the idea of art, really using your mind rather than babysitting people.

AG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well, you know, Bingo does use the mind in ways – I mean, you have to think about the numbers. But there are so many other things to introduce. And of course, it’s a job training professionals to teach these programs. You know, you have to be willing to bring in professionals who can bring these programs to people in the senior centers as well as in places where dementia patients are located, or adult daycare centers. Senior centers and recreation programs – many, many communities have programs that are just wonderful. So definitely I would encourage people – and write to me, check my website and write to me at AgingArtfully.com. I’ll see if I can help if you need some help.

MB: That’s wonderful of you. Thank you. I’m also interested in the storytelling. I think that’s such a wonderful art form. How do you get started in that?

AG: Again, some people, some professionals are teaching oral history methods. They’re gathering people in groups. And I think finding the resources is not as easy as for visual arts. I don’t think there are storytellers in every community as there are visual artists. But of course, one has to just try and be ingenious with resources. If somebody wants to work on their own, they can just start reading books out loud and develop their own style of storytelling. Now that we have recorders easily accessible and easily usable, that’s good practice. I would also say, encourage anybody to go to the library and ask the librarian.

MB: Yeah, they’re usually very up on it. It would make your librarian very happy.

AG: That’s true. The librarian might want to start a group if there’s enough interest. Lots of librarians love to do storytelling.

MB: I’m also a big Toastmasters fan, and Toastmasters usually focuses on giving speeches, but there’s no reason that people can’t use it for storytelling.

AG: That’s true. Yeah, that’s something – you can join a Toastmasters Club and say you want to do storytelling and everybody bring in a story next week or next month.

MB: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

AG: I think we’ve covered the gamut. I’d like to encourage people to take care of themselves, get involved in some art form, do something new. Look at my website, look at the book, and get inspired.

MB: Amy, I think you’re doing just wonderful, wonderful work. I thank you so much for being with us.

AG: Thank you very much.

MB: We’ve been talking with Amy Gorman, author of the award-winning book, Aging Artfully. The women she interviewed were also subjects of a documentary film, Still Kicking, which is at many film festivals. Amy lives in Berkeley, California, and speaks and gives presentations on her work. She also does personal oral histories. If you’re interested in anti-aging psychology, sign up for my free Defy Aging Newsletter at NotAging.com. I also love working with companies and associations to cure grumpy old men syndrome, working with workshops and consulting to help employees feel more youthful and upbeat, more productive, and the employers love it because they need less sick leave and use fewer health insurance benefits. We’ve been talking with Amy Gorman, author of Aging Artfully, which profiles women artists in their nineties and hundreds. It’s also the subject of a film, Still Kicking, which is available on DVD on her website, http://www.agingartfully.com/. If you’d like for your fellow employees to overcome grumpy old men syndrome, I can help. I love giving keynotes, workshops, and doing consulting with businesses on how to help employees think, feel, look, and be more youthful. When that happens, they’re more productive, turnover rates drop, and the employers are delighted to see less need for sick leave and less utilization of healthcare insurance benefits. Information on my speaking services is at Anti-Aging-Speaker.com. If you’d like information on anti-aging psychology, subscribe to my free email newsletter, the Defy Aging Newsletter, at NotAging.com. I’d like to leave listeners with a baby step for how to live longer, healthier, and happier. Amy has shared with us role models for how people in their nineties and hundreds are nourished by art and how it helps them. She shared how it’s never too late to get started, and how to get started. When we were kids, we had heroes – Superman, cowboys, and sports heroes and Nancy Drew. As adults, we need heroes just as much as children. What I’d like you to do as a baby step is, whether you are very involved in arts or not involved in arts at all, is to think about a way that you could become a little more involved. What aspect of art could you become more involved in? Visual arts? Would it be music? Storytelling? Maybe even studying architecture, getting involved in the theater. Would it be directly producing the arts or maybe behind the scenes? Would it be taking a course in art appreciation or music appreciation, or maybe trying opera for the first time? Whatever it is, see yourself doing that some time in the future and notice what you see yourself doing, what you hear, and especially notice how that makes you feel, how that lifts your spirits, how that gives you energy, how that adds to your sense of purpose and fulfillment. See yourself at 100 years old, a snap in your step, a glint in your eye, still involved in the arts, and how it lifts your spirits and how it gives you more of a sense of purpose. Perhaps you’ll want to take a step that direction today or tomorrow, or perhaps you’ll want to have it as a dream, waiting for the opportunity to present itself.

This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net.  I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Just sent them to radio@drbrickey.com. Information on anti-aging psychology and the Defy Aging Newsletter, which is free, is at DrBrickey.com. Thank you for listening on our quest to live longer, healthier, happier lives. 

 

 

Advertisements