Docent at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
96 years old
We should all be so lucky. Sure, he’s made some changes in his life. A University of Pennsylvania law school graduate but no longer practices law and, when he turned 90, his doctor advised him to stop playing tennis. So art has become his passion. It started a dozen years ago when his wife died and he sought a new involvement, a purpose to fill his time. It is that and much more. Bert, whose mother was an amateur painter, inherited the sensitivity of visuals as well as the intellectual capacity to provide unusual references in his art historian role. He is both loved and respected among the docents and his museum tours are quite special.
Art has a way of engagement. When you’re captured, there is a pull from the heart and brain that brings you in a world void of pain and problems. Many aging artists do not focus on their age or their ailments but on the compulsive need to create. This involvement is with such passion and personal abandonment, that the body and mind are propelled forward with enthusiastic drive. Amy Gorman, author of Aging Gracefully, interviewed twelve women artists aged 85-105 who personify this way of living. She captured their stories in her book and says “Each woman is spirited and resilient – interpreting for herself a life worth living to the end”. Amy, with Frances Kandl, established Project Arts and Longevity, an organization dedicated to unveiling the potentials of successful aging through the creative arts.
Richard and Alice Matzkin are artists who use paint, canvas, clay to overcome their fears of aging. Richard, a sculptor, and Alice, a painter, started capturing growing older in their art. “Each age has its own beauty” says Alice who believes that it is important not to focus on the negative but on beauty and realize how precious life is. They are an attractive loving couple who have written The Art of Aging: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self which emphasizes that “our elder years can be a time of ripening and harvest rather than stagnation and despair”. Richard provides a powerful insight in the way they live: “Our real art is the way we live from day to day, how we live with integrity, how much of ourselves we give to our work, to the people we love and to the world, that is the true art of aging “
For many creative people, art is a catalyst to help them age gracefully. They have an internal power to create beauty externally which is channeled with a sense of pleasure, curiosity and satisfaction. It is the way they embrace both the ordinary and extraordinary that gives their personal world value every day. This commanding force gives their lives meaning and that directly translates to a strong independent spirit that can withstand some of the rigors of aging. It is what aging gracefully is all about.
What lies before us and what lies beyond us is tiny compared to what lies within us.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.