2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Celebrating Your Legacy

"Legacy is as public as an architectural monument and as private as a letter written to children or grandchildren. It’s as tangible as a bank check and as intangible as a seemingly casual word of advice. And it’s as life enhancing as the Hemlich maneuver and as life denying as the Holocaust.” says Meg Newhouse, PhD.

My interest is in our personal legacy; in the passion, purpose and commitment that creates an indelible mark on the human landscape when we are no longer here to be part of it. It takes courage and kindness, dedication and fortitude to make that reach that will make a difference. Most people are not born famous and then leave a legacy; they become famous after they achieved success in their world of change. Clara Barton (formed the American Red Cross), Mother Teresa (advocate for the poor and helpless), Jonas Salk (developed Polio vaccine), and Christiaan Barnard (engineered the first heart transplant) all believed that healing others was their mission. They were dedicated to their work and as a result have helped people all over the world in perpetuity.

Here are some more current examples of legacies:

Social entrepreneur and author, Marc Freedman established Civic Ventures to support social change by recognizing the experience of older adults and encouraging personal and professional renewal. Under civic ventures, multiple programs are offered including The Purpose Prize which awards individuals age 60 and over for social innovation and their approach to solving some of the world’s biggest problems. The “experience dividend” has propelled many to create “greater good in the second half of life”

Dr. Gene Cohen, MD, PhD
passed away in 2009 but his legacy in the world of creativity and aging was enormous. He was the leading professional to offer research studies and writings (books include The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain and The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life) that fully supported the premise of positive aging as a result of a creative lifestyle. His groundbreaking studies have built a nationwide movement that owes its presence and strength to his work.

Alexandra Scott, born in 1992, was one year old when she was diagnosed with cancer. Unable to conquer the disease, Alex wanted a lemonade stand so she could make money to help fund a cure. Although she passed away at the age of 8, her legacy has encouraged products and events that have raised many millions of dollars for research. Her 3 brothers continue her work through their commitment to her legacy with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

J.A. and Geraldine Reynolds lost their son, Bruce, who was a patrolman for the Port Authority of New York on 9/11. He was an extraordinary charismatic person who loved to garden. Shortly after 9/11, the NYC Parks department delivered daffodils to plant in Reynolds’ community garden in New York City’s Isham Park. Now The Daffodil Project “is the largest volunteer, citizen-driven planting effort in New York City's history, with over 20,000 participants planting 2.5 million flowers since the Fall of 2001.“

Nancy Lublin started Dress for Success in 1996 with three nuns from Spanish Harlem and a $5,000 inheritance from her great-grandfather. Today this worldwide non-profit organization promotes "the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life." Through generous donations of clothes and accessories, financial contributions and paid staff and volunteers, Dress for Success has helped over 500,000 women.

Our lives are a blizzard of experiences and many responses are automatic. The phone rings and we pick it up, we drive the same route daily and never look at street names, and we’re moving from point A to point B and wondering where C is while preparing to get to point G. However what makes us unique and what makes living special is our intention to give meaning to our lives. People have all sorts of gifts and responses to the world around them. Some will leave creative products in art, music and writing as their legacy but most people will leave intangible legacies that are founded on direct social engagement. It can be volunteering at a soup kitchen or hospital, or working on fund raising campaigns for a favorite charity or rescuing stray dogs or cats to find them shelter. It can be helping neighbors or friends who are less fortunate or helping in a community center or school. Involvement can alter lives and begin a legacy. Fred Mandell, PhD, writer, artist and personal catalyst says “Doubt, frustration, and fear are part of life’s journey, but they are not as powerful as passion, commitment and purpose.”

For a legacy to be strong, your passion, purpose and commitment must be strong; waiting for tomorrow is not as effective as doing it today. The time is now to build your legacy so it will represent your life and your spirit of caring. Celebrate yourself. Celebrate your legacy.

"In the power to change yourself is the power to change the world around you."
- Anwar Sadat

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Value of Arts and Crafts

Youngsters enjoy arts and crafts in summer camp, in grade school, at parties and anywhere there is a drop in activity. And yet for decades thereafter, adults often become so busy with careers, families and responsibilities that their creative zones remain unnourished. But something new is rippling along the frontier for older adults; arts and crafts programs that encourage, teach and provide expressive outlets.

Once hard to find, classes have been cropping up in senior facilities and art centers that target the mature audience. They range from classic oil painting to fiber arts to drama to poetry and everything in between. Many workshops are free or at a minimal cost and a growing number of funders have been evaluating the benefits to extend financial support. And there is more research validating these benefits.

Gene Cohen, MD, PhD, Founder and Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities of the George Washington University designed a study that looked at adults aged 65-100 and divided them in two different groups; the control group actively engaged in cultural activities and creative projects while the other group remained more passive. The results showed that the engaged group became healthier; they required less medicine, less doctor visits, were prone to less falls, were less lonely and enjoyed better morale. As a result, Dr. Cohen states that it “reflects important health promotion and prevention effects and a reduction of risk factors driving the need for long-term care” and "Anything that stimulates the brain, reduces stress, and promotes a more balanced emotional response will trigger positive changes in the body." The significance is not just about the benefits to the individual, that’s the small picture albeit a valued one, but the bigger picture is the reduced impact to our health care system as a whole. And more studies have proven this positive association between the arts and healing.

Daniel Monti, Executive and Medical Director at Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, evaluated women with different types of cancer participating in a support group called Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy. The group used meditation training with art projects, from sketching self-portraits to sculpting with clay. Women in the study reduced their stress levels and generally improved their health by experiencing less pain, better sleep, and fewer general physical complaints. National Institutes of Health took notice and provided Monti an additional grant for a study with more cancer patients to enable a close look at specific markers in the immune system.

And the value of involvement in the arts is not just for your health. There is a striking association for successful scientists to enjoy creative pursuits. The famous astronomer and physicist Galileo was also an artist, craftsman and musician and Leonardo Da Vinci contributed to the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics as well as excelling in his capacity as a painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Dr. Peter Mitchell, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry, observed that for most scientists to be creative in their work, they also must “become craftspeople as well as art people." The Scientists Project, a long term study, evaluated a diverse group of scientists and discovered that the most successful scientists did have something in common; many creative avocations and the belief that it stimulated their mental acuity for science. In Arts and Crafts: Keys to Scientific Creativity (), Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein state “The least successful scientists had the fewest avocations and universally expressed the opinion that these avocations took valuable time and energy away from their scientific work.” This study demonstrates the success of integrating personal and professional values, embracing creative opportunities and being able to synergize all of them to generate success.

In the final analysis, the pursuit of engaging in arts and crafts has important benefits to our physical health as well as to our mental acuity. It offers value to our lives in ways that we may not fully realize. There are many opportunities to reach out for creative projects; for supplies and inspiration try your local craft store, pick up some books at the library, search youtube.com for video tutorials, check out classes given in your neighborhood or just create that whimsical dream with whatever you have in your closet. Now is the time to be creative and to be healthy.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ART: Catalyst for Aging Gracefully

Bert Levy
Philadelphia native
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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Accessibility of Visual Art

Art is for everyone to enjoy but not everyone has access to art. And it is not just about wheelchairs. That can be accommodated with physical solutions such as ramps, elevators and entries. There are many individuals who need special accessibility for visual arts and the solutions to offer this experience necessitates planning by the provider. Fortunately, organizations nationwide support the inclusive art community.

The National Arts and Disability Center
is a project at the University of California in Los Angeles whose “mission is to promote the full inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community”. It is a robust resource for artists, administrators, policy makers, grantmakers and everyone interested in this area of service. In addition to hundreds of helpful web pages, it offers networking and technology assistance for specialized groups.

Many museums offer unique programs to encourage the less able bodied to view their collections. These programs are designed to provide an intellectual understanding of a visual experience that will encourage the participant to think about art and his/her world. Often they will learn about the hurdles that artists have met and how they persevered to continue making art. In addition, an important auxiliary aspect of these programs is socialization. These participants usually lead isolated lives and in a program they become part of a group, have the opportunity to talk with others and interact with museum professionals who encourage questions and responses. For many, this experience will continue to resonate and provide fodder for conversation and further reflection.

In 2006, The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, with support from the MetLife Foundation, established the program Meet Me at MOMA which is held monthly and is free of charge. Designed to provide interactive guided tours with dialogue and discussion for Alzheimer patients, their family members and caregivers, its success has been nothing less than remarkable. As part of the comprehensive project, MOMA developed accessibility models that can be utilized by other museums as well as care giving facilities nationwide. There is also a joint venture with the NYU School of Medicine to measure the positive impact of art and health care for early stage Alzheimer patients and their caregivers. To "share, educate and inspire", Dr. John Zeisel and Sean Caulfield arrange free museum tours at different art sites locally and globally through Artz, (Artists for Alzheimers) which is an initiative under the Hearthstone Alzheimer’s Foundation.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art provides a range of inclusive workshops and gallery tours including a specialized “Discoveries” program for visitors with learning and developmental disabilities from age 6 and up. This is a popular and free program held on Sundays offers art making time as well as guided tour based on the theme for that week.

Accessibility is an important aspect of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s (PMA). mission to reach people with a range of disabilities including some people who may be unable to visit the museum At home and with the use of a basic phone line, participants who would not have physical access to the museum can participate in a free conference call to learn about art. This Art Talk service is facilitated by a trained Museum educator (docent) who references the pictorial booklet distributed prior to the call to discuss the art and encourage conversation. PMA also provides hands on workshops to legally blind adults combined with museum tours that provide visual descriptions with the opportunity to touch select objects . Laura Marmar, a PMA docent for the past 20 years, has guided accessible programs. She sees real needs in the community being met and the widening of art accessibility through specialized programs managed by PMA’s extraordinary outreach.

For additional information about art accessibility in your area, contact the museums and galleries directly. Many of these institutions are funded to provide this public service and welcome the opportunity to extend the art experience to individuals and groups in their community.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
-Helen Keller

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Age Retirement: With Creativity, Passion, Purpose

Meet Arlene Blum (http://www.purposeprize.org/finalists/candidatepage.cfm?candidateid=3527) a scientist and mountain climber who is scaling new terrain. At 61, she returned to work in science policy and started the Green Science Policy Institute. She persuaded California regulators to reduce toxic fire-retardant chemicals in furniture and children's products. An amazing motivator, Arlene has successfully brought government, industry, non profits and scientists together on this project.

Meet H. Eugene Jones who started his encore career at 84 with a background of helping faltering businesses. He created an arts program in Arizona schools to enrich their experience in movement, sound and expression and to also substantially enrich their learning academically and creatively.

Meet Richard Ladner a son of deaf parents with a 35 year career teaching theory based computer science at the university level. He has transformed the lives of disabled people with accessible technology to facilitate and better lives of those who are deaf or blind.

Meet Michele McRae a retired language professor in North Dakota who has provided refugees with the necessary tools and information to ease their assimilation in the community. She involved older adults as tutors for new Americans and it became a 500 person volunteer operation.

These are just a few of the recognized individuals who have been awarded The Purpose Prize/Fellow for establishing their social entrepreneurship in a critical area of need during their retirement years. “They are living proof that aging does not equal stagnation and decline, that later life is a time of innovation, productivity, and creativity as rich as the younger years” is a statement provided by Civic Ventures which initiated The Purpose Prize. They have commitment, purpose, dedication and a creative passion that is newly unleashed from years of more traditional positions.

Jobs consume more than one third of our waking hours, approximately another third is used with sleep and the balance is a mosaic of personal needs. So working is (was) a huge part of our lives and should be rewarding beyond financial compensation. Yet many remain unsatisfied. They feel compelled to hold on to their jobs despite negative indicators because they are fearful of the economic consequences of changing lanes. No doubt that the economy has perpetuated this frozen mentality as well as family responsibilities that eschews risk. But opportunity is just steps away. The old adage of “when on door closes, another opens” is based on real experience.

Yet many have jumped from their professional icebergs (due to layoff or retirement) to capture a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. It is a valuable time to reinvent oneself; to reflect on experience, skills, talent and, very important, to introspectively search for passion and purpose. For those who are unsure which mission to master or are not ready to retire, volunteerism can offer an important bridge to your encore career. It is an opportunity to explore different types of organizations and challenges within your community and find a road that is waiting to be paved. It’s a definite trend. For people over 50, there has been an increase of almost 50% in applications to the Peace Corps and President Barack Obama, an ardent community activist, has encouraged all Americans to engage in volunteerism.

Temple University’s Coming of Age has been promoting civic involvement for baby boomers in Greater Philadelphia. A partnership of The Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning, WHYY Wider Horizons, AARP Pennsylvania, and United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania., they are helping to launch the same grassroots organizations across the country. Dick Goldberg, Executive Director, says “As I go around the country working with communities to help them start their own Coming of Age initiatives, I’m learning more and more about how people 50+ see their future-- and the lives they plan or are already living that include learning and connecting and contributing to the community”. With helpful website resources, you can search their database for volunteer positions based on area of interest and location and sign up for their weekly Inspiring Opportunities newsletter .

Whatever your situation is today, there is a need for your support in local organizations and opportunities to build new ones. Some people who have had to reduce or forgo their checks to charities are supplementing or substituting annual donations with volunteer time. It’s a creative solution to a personal commitment, an approach to produce meaning behind a languishing budget. Giving is an integral part of positively relating in society and feeling optimistic about empowering change. When we make a difference in people’s lives, our own lives are enriched and changed forever.

An excerpt from a poem by Longfellow, titled Morituri Salutamus:

“For age is opportunity, no less
Than Youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Economy Down, Creativity Up!

It’s everywhere. People are struggling and businesses are closing. Assumed to be the longest recession since World War II, the economy has faltered and sent tremors rippling down Wall Street, along Main Street and near you.

In such a somber environment, it is prime time for creativity to stand up and get noticed. And it’s everywhere. People are reaching for new experiences, businesses are reinventing themselves and the light continues to shine bright on flexibility, change and imagination.

We are living the adage of “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. Spending less is the necessity; invention is a panorama of new avenues to explore and new solutions to deploy. To save money, people are changing their ways. Sharon Kraynak, a salesperson at an art store in Philadelphia, responds to many new customers asking for information and advice about different products. Sharon observed, ‘They have decided not to go away on vacation so they want to do something creative at home instead. There is so much pressure to hold their jobs that this is a healthy release for them.’ Creative pursuits remain strong. Kathleen Lenkeit, 59, works for the state of California and knows about holding her job while maintaining her hobby of knitting. “The Governor furloughed us 2 days each month, for a 10% pay cut.” says Kathleen “Now there's talk of a 3rd furlough day each month (with another 5% pay cut), so I'm trying to be conservative in what I'm buying. But, a gal's got to have her yarn and patterns to stay calm!’ Another crafter has turned ways of being frugal to her advantage. “I used to enjoy shopping for my craft supplies but when the economy took a nose dive, I changed my approach” says Joan Lobenberg, 74, “and now I enjoy integrating found objects in my work. There is no cost, the elements are unique and my work has generated lots of interest.”

Interest in art has escalated. Museums in the western part of New York State have realized increased attendance and membership despite reduction of funds. And it is also in cities across the country. "Rochester is a microcosm for the entire country," said Dewey Blanton, spokesman for the American Association of Museums in Washington, D.C. "Attendance has never been stronger because in tough times people rely on museums for respite and renewal. But attendance doesn't pay all the bills."

Struggling to pay bills is a big problem for many seniors so the education sector is getting creative. Colleges and universities are growing their courses and workshops to adjust to an increased demand by unemployed older adults needing career support. Retirement, once within grasp, is now years away. In 2008, Maryland's Anne Arundel Community College had almost 14,000 adult students aged 50 and older. In response to this growing demographic, they have developed more resources to help them. "We're getting a lot more requests from people who are going back to work," said Terry Portis, director of AACC's Center on Aging. "As a result, we’re trying to beef up our career counseling area."

With these financial social changes, comfort zones have shifted. The new imperative is to think outside the box, adapt to new turf, relish new challenges and find reasons to be grateful. Reframing, the process of looking at something in a different way from different angles, is a helpful technique to navigate through this tough economy. It’s having a new lens to generate a vision of opportunities to survive, and even thrive, in this economy.

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
- Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Herb and Dorothy

They did not plan to be rich or famous. After all, they both had long, quiet careers in the government. He was a postal worker without a high school diploma and she was a librarian for the New York Public Library with a graduate degree. But Herb had an insatiable passion for art and Dorothy slid right under his wing. Now, approximately 50 years after they met, the Vogels have amassed a vast and unique collection of American contemporary art, mostly minimalist, that has been donated to the National Gallery in Washington, DC. And they are still collecting.

How did they do it? They lived frugally in a rent controlled apartment in New York City where they still live today. There are probably more live pets (cats, fish and turtles) than pieces of furniture. When a guest arrives, a plastic folding chair is extended gracefully but it will not stay extended too long. Their apartment is small but packed, literally from floor to ceiling, with art. Having decided to live on one salary and purchase art with the other, every Saturday they went art shopping as others were doing their weekly food shopping.

They’re a diminutive unassuming couple. So in the 1960s, it was somewhat unusual to see them romping around SOHO visiting galleries, artists and undeveloped loft spaces. Many artists became happily accustomed to seeing Herb and Dorothy and looked forward to selling their art so they could pay their rent. The old adage “cash is king” worked. And at the end of the day, you could follow them on the subway or hailing a taxi carrying wrapped parcels of art back to their small apartment. And so they developed friendships with many of these artists and had an advantage as a buyer. Once they were even given preliminary drawings of the Christo and Jean Claude project Valley Curtain in exchange for watching the artist's cat while they were away. Sol Le Witt, Chuck Close, Richard Tuttle, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and many others are in their 20th century collection and you can take a glimpse of some of their artist friends in this short video created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Herb is the negotiator and talker; Dorothy remains more quiet. He likes to study and analyze art, Dorothy prefers to intuit her decision and move on. He enjoys building breadth in a collection by an artist and she picks across the art spectrum. Despite their different styles, the Vogels still continue to buy, based on personal values of what they like, on their definition of “beauty” and ultimately what they want to own. Naturally they are also practical buyers; they have to be able to afford the art and it has to fit in their apartment. Not that they have income issues. Although they are both retired, they have anticipated benefits from their jobs as well as an annuity from The National Gallery of Art in appreciation of their donation. So their apartment was only temporarily void of art work after the Gallery packed it, and they have been avidly collecting again.

The documentary titled Herb and Dorothy was created by writer-director Megumi Sasaki who tells their story in a way that is personal and public, serious and funny, and totally engaging with scenes ranging from Dorothy’s shopping at the Apple store for a mac to the huge vans carrying their art to The National Gallery so 50 museums in 50 states can provide exhibitions of pieces in this collection. Enjoy the trailer

Sasaki says: "From the beginning, my intention was to make something other than a so-called "art film." I wanted to capture how these two ordinary people accomplished the extraordinary in the field of art collecting. The film is about the power of passion and love, and a celebration of life.

The story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel is unique not only because of their avant garde vision and discernment as collectors, but also their love and dedication. It is through their loving partnership that the viewer truly experiences this remarkable story.

The Vogels' message is also about access. Art is not limited to the elite few. You don't have to be wealthy or an art school graduate to enjoy art. If you are interested in collecting art, you don't have to follow trends or others' advice, just listen to your own voice. Trust your eyes and instinct. Simply take the time to look, look and look.

In today's world, where art is treated as another commodity and a work's investment value takes precedence over its artistic value, Herb and Dorothy offers us an important question: What is it to appreciate and collect art?

My fortunate encounter with these beautiful people has changed my view of, and appreciation for, art and life."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Creative Success Comes Later in Life

When Creative Success Comes Later in Life

Some have struggled for years in jobs, others have followed a quiet creative life and many have tenaciously held on to their entrepreneurial spirit. Yet success found them later in life. When you have dreams of something beyond your present experience, patience is your biggest friend.

Here are some examples:

• Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses was in her 70s when she began painting scenes of her rural life in upstate New York. This self-taught artist, mother and widow became one of the most famous American folk artists of the 20th century and continued painting in her 90s.

• Louise Nevelson was in her 50s when she sold her work to three New York City museums and now her art can be seen internationally in over eighty public collections. Shortly before her 60th birthday, she became President of the Artist's Equity New York chapter which was the first of many art leadership positions she would attain.

• When she was just months shy of her 50th birthday, Julia Child collaborated on her first French cooking book, a two-volume set titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Soon after, she promoted her book on television and that catapulted her overnight sensation in the culinary world.

• Colonel Sanders of finger lickin good chicken fame, had a difficult start in life but early on realized he had a creative cooking talent. However it was not until he was in his 60s that he started KFC and became a millionaire.

• Up until the age of 40, devoutly religious Anton Bruckner, composed music solely for the Catholic Church. Then a meeting with Wagner turned his life around and he began to compose symphonies of epic proportion. He was working on his great Symphony No. 9 when he died at 72.

• Elliot Carter has received media attention at age 100. A review from The New York Times music critic was in praise of his latest, centenarian work, Interventions, describing it as "lucidly textured, wonderfully inventive, even impish. This was the work of a living master in full command."

• Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her family's life in the 1870s and 1880s in the acclaimed The Little House on the Prairie series of books for children. She published her first book at the age of 65.

• Harry Bernstein was in his 90s when he decided to write his memoirs after his wife of 67 years died. His book titled The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers and continued writing with the recently published book The Dream.

• Louis Kahn, a Russian immigrant, was an important architect of the 20th century. He created his first important piece of architecture, the Yale University Art Gallery, when he was in his 50s and continued to design notable academic buildings.

• As jobless architect during the Depression, Alfred Mosher Butts invented Scrabble which became the most popular word game in the world. He did not realize success of the game until his early 50s when Macy’s Chairman placed a large order and promoted it.

• Charles Darwin was 50 years old when he published his complete theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species which sold out the first day it was released and subsequently had six editions. He continued to write for at least 10 more years (eg. The Descent of Man).

• André Kertész was born in Hungary and after years in France photographing artists, he immigrated to the US. Now remembered as an eminent photojournalist, his career vacillated until, at the age of 70, he had a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art and subsequently in galleries all over the world.

This is a short list of many people in a variety of creative venues who pursued their passion and realized success at age 50 and beyond. Their achievements took many paths, twists and turns, and surely moments of self doubt. Coming from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds, (for example, Charles Darwin never had to earn a living while Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up with few resources) their privileged status was not a common thread. But I believe that these late bloomers all share an exceptional ability to persevere, a brilliant talent that would not lay quiet, a set of good genes and a stable environment. They have enriched our lives as a result of their determination and unwavering spirit and they challenge those who believe that old age is simply a negative consequence of living.

Henry David Thoreau: I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Creative Resilience in Tough Times

Yes, it’s tough out there and the wind has not shifted yet. Since there is no economic weather forecast that is reliable, we have to accept this financial debacle and find ways to continue to manage our lives creatively and successfully.

It would be great if there was a magic potion to clear the negative fumes but our resilient attitude will be our best tool. Maintaining your dignity and optimism and building a personal well of happiness is important.

Ian Thiermann at age 90 lost all of his retirement savings, over $700 thousand dollars, in the Madoff scheme but refuses to dwell on the negative. He has launched himself again after 25 years of retirement and now works for $10 an hour, 30 hours a week, as a greeter at a local grocery store where he was a regular customer. This initiative was made possible by Ian’s positive attitude and acceptance as well as the smarts of the store management to recognize the value of inspiration to others. Ian and his wife refuse to be depressed; instead they are focused on gratitude for the support of friends and family around them.

How are artists responding? Brooklyn artist Geoffrey Raymond is 55 years old and, less than 2 years ago, the former PR executive reinvented himself by seizing the Wall Street collapse to generate a new business. He paints oversized portraits of fallen CEOs and then positions himself with his work outside their headquarters. He offers Sharpie markers to those passing by to write their comments on the canvas; employees get a colored marker and an unaffiliated person gets a black one. Geoffrey has painted portraits of Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers), James Cayne (Bear Stearns), Hank Greenberg (AIG), Rupert Murdoch (News Corp) and others to capture people’s attention and give them a place to vent their thoughts. Not surprising this has also captured the attention of the media as well as buyers on eBay where his paintings sometimes start at an opening bid of $5,000. And there is a report of a well heeled employee with a strong sense of humor paying $10,000 for a portrait right there on the street.

An economy meltdown is hard to visualize but artists Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano created just that. The ECONOMY ice sculpture called mainstream meltdown certainly provokes conversation. Purposefully staged in New York City on 10/29, the 79th anniversary of the stock market crash, it had a pristine elegance in its 1600 pounds of ice that measured 15 to 20 ft across and about 5 feet high. Yet it was doomed; it could not last 20 hours and was an economy meltdown disintegrating right before your eyes.

The economy is down but community service is up. Doing good is becoming trendy. There has been a recent rise in non profit start ups, a new surge of interest in volunteerism and an increase of applications to work at non profits. People are stirred to reach out and infuse positive energy in a negative environment. It is difficult for a young person graduating college to look for a job when the market is weak and competition is strong. That situation has stirred some to take a strategic leap and join the Peace Corps upon graduation because they will learn a lot, give a lot and by the end of their two year assignment hopefully the economy will have improved. Even corporations whose stock prices have tanked realize the value of community service from an inside and outside perspective. It feels good to the people making a difference and it looks good to the community and to the public. According to the January 16, 2009 Verizon Press Release, "In 2008, Verizon employees volunteered more than 607,000 hours to 5,169 nonprofit organizations. The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, supports employee volunteerism by awarding a $750 grant to a nonprofit organization when a Verizon employee volunteers 50 hours or more to the organization during the year." At Civic Ventures (http://www.civicventures.org/), their studies find that "Half of all Americans age 50 to 70 want work that helps others. A full 50 percent are interested in taking jobs now and in retirement that help improve quality of life in their communities." Heather Gee, Vice President for Development and Donor Services at Women’s Philanthropy Network in Philadelphia says that the group of volunteers at a recent event believe that "..women who have a common interest to give back to the community will make this world a better place and really create positive change. They believe in the power of women working together to change lives and save lives."

this difficult time, it is important to realize one’s own strength and resources to change internally and to give externally. Creative resilience is not an option, it is a necessity.

Be the change that you want to see in the world. (Ghandi)