By Celia Hughes
When I was a teenager, they discovered I had very low blood pressure. When quizzed about its effect on my health and future well-being, my doctor remarked that I didn’t have to worry about having a stroke any time soon, but that I could look forward to senility. As a teenager, I just thought this was a strange answer, but now as an adult facing down the seventh decade of my journey, I find myself pondering his off-the-cuff remark. Just because I am older, am I really in danger of losing the plot, as they say?
Want to hear about ageism in society? Check out this TED talk.
Many experts would say that I have chosen the perfect career to ward off that prediction those many moons ago. Playing around with theater, music, and dance for most my life, as well as sewing, crocheting, cooking and dabbling in flower arrangement, to name a few, seems to be my ticket to brain health. And Gene Cohen, MD, PhD, Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University and the first researcher to conduct a national longitudinal study on the quality of life, just might agree. In 2001, he reported that the arts have a positive effect on health and illness as we age. This was soon to be named Creative Aging.
In particular, expressive art activities offer a wide range of benefits, including relaxation, reducing depression and anxiety, improving cognition, encouraging playfulness and a sense of humor, nurturing spirituality, and reducing boredom. Wow. Seems like during this time of “mid to late-pandemic, hybrid, can we/will we re-open” languishing times, these benefits can go a long way.
Check out the Mobile Art online class series to engage in simple to complex visual art activities in the comfort of your own home. Or gather some of your friends together to host a group art afternoon. There are plenty to choose from at the Art Spark Texas YouTube channel.
Several years ago, Austin, which is facing what has been identified as a ‘Silver Tsunami,’ worked to gain the classification of an Age-Friendly City by the AARP. With this classification comes the responsibility to develop priorities and uphold standards in the following eight domains of livability:
- Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
- Social Participation
- Respect and Social Inclusion
- Civic Participation and Employment
- Communication and Information
- Community Support and Health Services
Notice there is no use of the word creative in any of these domains. It may be implied within the domains, but ‘Being Creative’ is not always a given when working with a government entity. So, I have made it a goal of Art Spark Texas to squeak loud enough for the framers of the Austin age-friendly policies to take notice of the forgotten wheel.
Are you hoping to start an aging is creative program? Jump to page 19 of this report (the first 18 pages are a table of contents and thank yous to the contributors).
Do you already have a program and need help to tell your story? Perhaps this plan can help: “Gaining Momentum—a collection of resources designed to help advocates reframe aging in America.
To read more about Austin’s Age-Friendly Plan and find out how you can become involved in ensuring that we not only grow older ‘more friendly’ in true Texas style, but that the ARTS with all of their creativity, ingenuity, and imagination are the fuel that drives the engine. “Building an Age-friendly Austin”, November 2017.
I look forward to seeing you out and about soon, as well as safely cocooned within the Internet web (remember, hybrid!) as we don our artist-as-aging-warrior gear to create neural and actual pathways to health.
After all, I have my old doctor’s prediction to slay.