Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Age With Creativity

Patricia Brown has written a fascinating article on a new style retirement community in Burbank, California.

Fostering Self-Expression
In this colony Suzanne Knode from Apartment 406 has written a comedy movie in which the leading lady is a downstairs neighbour, 81 year old Ms Nichols from Apartment 125.

Brown reports: “With the understanding that not everyone wants the old-school model of golf course retirement, the colony offers artful self-expression: a digital film editing laboratory, a theater, drama classes and studios open for inspiration 24 hours a day.”

Discovering Your Picasso
“This is a place where amateurs discovering their inner Picassos in retirement can commune with working pros like Charlie Schridde, a painter in his 70’s from the ‘cowboy impressionist’ school who resembles the grizzled trappers of his canvases.”

Model for Creative Aging
“The colony, was recognized last month as a model for creative aging by the National Endowment for the Arts, represents a profound shift in thinking about aging. In 2001, a study co-sponsored by George Washington University and the N.E.A. found that people 65 and older who were regularly involved in participatory arts programs reported fewer doctors’ visits and less need for medication and were less prone to depression.”

“Residents appear frequently as guests on “Experience Talks,” a weekly radio program on KPFK that is produced by More Than Shelter for Seniors, the nonprofit organization that conceptualized the colony.”

“The show, which reaches 250,000 listeners, features interviews with celebrities like Andrew Weil, the alternative health guru, and Studs Terkel-like celebrations of the residents themselves, the most recent a tribute to Buck Page, one of the country’s last singing cowboys, who released a CD not long before his death a few weeks ago, at an effervescent 84.”

Life Coming Back
“The colony, Mr. Freedman said, ‘is a new hybrid that moves beyond that to actual creativity, to growth.’ He added: ‘It’s not just writing memoirs and harvesting the past. It’s about producing new insights and work that is not only personally interesting but enriches the lives of neighbours.’”

“The new Burbank colonists include Gene Schklair, a retired dental surgeon from Chicago who is now sculpting full time. Before moving to the colony, Mr. Schklair and his wife, Glorya, both 75, spent a year backpacking around the world after he contracted a serious illness, from which he has recovered. ‘You see them come in with dead eyes,’ he said of new arrivals, some of whom are art appreciators rather than artists. ‘Then, the life comes back.’”

Finding Yourself
“A typical week finds a blues singer performing at the Tuesday barbecue, a novelist offering a manuscript for dissection in a writer’s workshop, and a buff 72-year-old coach teaching how to prevent falls. ‘The same neurons fire whether you’re writing a short story that may or may not be great or whether you are writing Ulysses,’ Mr. Carpenter said.”

“Like a challenging painting, life at the arts colony has become an exercise in perspective. ‘You meet yourself,’ she said. ‘You find out who you really are.’”

Source: Patricia Leigh Brown, ‘At New Rentals, the Aim is to Age with Creativity’, New York Times, 10 September 2006.

Image: Charlie Schridde in his living room and art studio at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, home to writers, sculptors, actors and other artists.