Aging with Science and Art

Imagine an organization whose sole focus is the creative well-being of seniors. The National Center for Creative Aging recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by holding its first Leadership Exchange and Conference. Its goal was to bring together the latest, greatest in science research and expressive arts designed to ensure that baby-boomers and earlier generations have the cognitive stimulation and creative opportunities necessary to live a maximally stimulating and satisfying life.

I had the good fortune to be a part of this extraordinary event. As I waited for the opening talk to commence, just as I pulled out my notebook and pen, two men propelled on to the stage dressed in form fitting pants and similarly snug tee shirts, wearing the soft-soled shoes characteristic of jazz and modern dance performance. “Curious,” I observed. The noticeably older man, white haired and soft-spoken, began to gesture, recite prose and dance in carefully placed steps within a small radius. Following close behind was a contrastingly young man repeating the same words and routine. A stark, emotional, and powerful message about creativity, the ageless human body and the aging paradox took place with little need for an introduction or explanation. This experience served to transport the diverse audience to the very same page, and thus the keynote talk began.

“Leadership Exchange” was a fitting title for the central day of the NCCA conference, held in Washington, D.C. in mid June. According to the program description, “each session is born of vision, practice, collaboration, and a good dose of improvisation.” Rather than the science-heavy meetings I typically attend, this day promised and delivered through engaging and sometimes spontaneous material that melded the art and the science of creative aging. Here’s a sampling of what I heard, saw and learned.

Marc Agronin, M.D., geriatric psychiatrist, took a broad-brush approach in his keynote address and paid tribute to Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., who’s writing and philosophy helped shape NCCA’s early vision and mission. To my delight, Agronin concentrated on the strengths of aging: neuroplasticity, maturity, and creativity. He made the point that “Not in spite of age, but because of aging we become more creative.” Gay Hannah, NCCA Executive Director echoed his views when she expressed the societal goal, and professional need, to shift from loss to the “dynamic potential of aging.” The tone for the day was set.

While we intuitively know that theater classes, modern dance and memoir writing programs provide cognitive stimulation, (See my earlier blogs at HuffPost50 on these subjects) it is…

This article was sourced from Huffpost.

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