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Simplifying Creative Aging

Category: Ad Summa: Museums and Creative Aging
A solitary bird perching on a telephone wire
What's the simplest way to explain creative aging, when there are so many ways to do it? A wise magician named Merlyn may have the answer. Photo credit: Olga Serjantu on Unsplash

“What’s creative aging?” is a question that usually comes fast on the heels of mentioning the term. I have tried to explain it so many times that, for economy’s sake, I’ve developed ways to explain it with the fewest descriptors possible. In earlier blogs I have said that it is the awakening (or reawakening) of our natural curiosities as we advance in years. Granted, there are innumerable ways to age creatively, and some of the most astute advisors in the field urge us to define creative aging as a series of sessions that build upon each other and, in the end, enable us to master a skill or art form while also building a sense of community and of self-worth. I like this latter description and use it when I sense in the inquirer a more sincere interest, when I have time, and when there is enough air in my lungs at the moment.

But, quite simply, creative aging is all about arousing curiosity and lifelong learning.

Then, it sometimes follows, comes another question: “Well, how can one age creatively?” Again, for this I seek the simplest answer, admitting that it has eluded me until recently—there are so many ways to age creatively! Recently, though, an eloquent answer came from the pages of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, and they came, fittingly, from the mouth of the wise magician Merlyn who, when offering an antidote for “sadness,” prescribed:

“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you!”

There you have it, then: Curiosity and learning; learning and curiosity. They feed on one another in such healing ways.

Ad Summa!


Remember that we offer weekly blogs on creative aging; remember that we would love to hear from you; remember that in October 2020 AAM will devote a whole issue of its bi-monthly magazine to creative aging; and be sure to remember to join us at our national convening at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, November 4-6, 2020. Watch this space for more information on all of the above!

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