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Creative Reinvention in 50s and Beyond

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Reinvention, encore careers, Don't Retire, Rewire, "Now I can wear purple" -- Boomers in the third age who want to change their lives are now in the spotlight. Many of us want to exercise our minds, bodies and creativity in new ways. But, what does it do for us to challenge ourselves to do new things? Is it just more fun?

I grew up with a much older brother, RB Kitaj, who became a famous artist when I was still in my teens, so the idea that I might have any creative ability never entered my mind... until one year ago.

I interviewed artist and creativity coach Sandra Shuman for my local TV show, called Alivelihood: New Adventures As We Age, and took advantage of her offer to play in her art studio. I fell in love with using the materials and have not stopped since that day.

In the past year, I've set up a studio and learned how to do encaustic collages, using an ancient technique of layering hot wax and embedding anything onto it. I've even had my first art show, where I sold paintings! I'm in love with this process and work at it any free moment I get.

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Have I always been creative and never knew it? Do we all have a creative spirit, and most don't access it because of fear, self-consciousness or lack of opportunity?

The late Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Creative Age and researcher in aging and the arts, wrote that we all have creative instincts that most haven't had the courage or time to express since we were children. Boston area artist and personal transformation catalyst Fred Mandell, co-author of Becoming a Life Change Artist, believes that most of us live with the habit of "non-creativity."

Research that Cohen and others have done demonstrates that actively engaging in any form of creative activity -- visual art, dance, writing, theater, music -- stimulates a number of positive responses in our bodies and minds. It has the potential to do these things:

  • decreases health problems and depression
  • provides a sense of mastery
  • gives opportunities for social engagement, which is linked to happiness
  • offers a sense of control, which promotes confidence about challenging ourselves to do new things

Judith Kate Friedman of Songwriting Works writes, "We're all artists. We have music in us and gifts to give." She works with older people in assisted living centers where she engages even the most severe dementia residents in song. Storyteller Alan O'Hare of Life Story Theatre gathers stories of people and creates a dramatic tapestry of their lives. Both of them have found how readily even those who've never sung or acted before can respond positively to exercising their creative selves.

How can you find your creative self if you've never tried to do so?

  • Become a keen observer... of nature, animals, children, yourself
  • Practice doing something creative every day, even for a few minutes
  • Try new things -- a new way of dressing yourself, a new variation on a recipe, sing out loud, join an improv acting class or a life drawing class with a live model
  • Take a weekend workshop doing something you've never done before -- zen painting or salsa dancing
  • Slow down and allow for spaces in your life.

When you find your passion, immerse yourself in it and see how it puts you in "flow," a highly desirable state where time passes effortlessly and you're totally involved in the process without judgment.

And comment here about your experience finding your creative self.

For more by Karma Kitaj, click here.

For more on aging gracefully, click here.

You can see some of my pictures here.