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Friday, September 28, 2012

Creativity and Wisdom in Aging

Creativity and Wisdom in Aging[i]

         In the introduction of his book the author, Dr. Simonton presents the idea that while humans share a number of traits with other animals like being able to discriminate, form concepts, and move with goals in mind. (Very clear when my cat meows at the door and when the door opens she runs to her food bowl) we humans do have two very special abilities, wisdom and creativity.  This post will attempt to convey some of the information in his book about how these processes work for us. 
         He first discusses wisdom. I want to give a quote that has special importance to me because I spend a great deal of time developing the “skill” of staying in the “here and now.”
         “The first capacity is wisdom. Rather than live from moment to moment with minimal reflection and even less foresight, human beings can acquire a broad perspective on life, discerning a larger view of life’s meaning than permitted by a hand to mouth subsistence.”  I can evaluate the past and set goals for the future. A problem is that I often get attached to thoughts about the past and the future and it’s difficult to let go of them when I should be paying attention to what I’m doing.
         Creativity is the next capacity that Dr. Simonton discusses. He tells us that creativity is “a hallmark of our species.”  As everyone knows not all creativity is wise and later in the chapter he gives a broader description about wisdom.        
         A difference between the two is that creativity is divergent thinking while a convergent process, connected to intelligence, characterizes wisdom.  It has been studied for centuries and is described as a key human characteristic.
         He presents three indicators of the creative process.
a)   Creative production varies. It rises quickly to a peak and then tends to decline slowly depending on the creativity content.  This is an example of what can be described as an “age curve.”  The curve depends on the nature of the creative process including “novel writing, history, philosophy, and general scholarship”
b)   The relation between quantity and quality is somewhat more complicated although through out artist’s careers quantity and quality are positively connected.
c)   In lifetime output there’s variety
·   Some show creativity quite early
·   For some, like great psychologists, there is no       age correlation.

        While wisdom has been around for a long time psychologists have begun studying it more recently. Eric Eriksson’s theory of wisdom development was first published in the late fifties, just as I was graduating from high school and beginning my university adventure.
         The last sage of his theory, in late life, “…is the final conflict between integrity and despair, the favorable resolution of which yields renunciation and wisdom” That of course does not mean that we all make the right choices.

    So, it would appear the wisdom and creativity may have a somewhat contrary relationship.  It would appear the creativity reaches a high point in middle adulthood, with the note that this depends on what kind of creativity we are talking about.  Next because quality and quantity are connected the quality of creativity is not associated with decline  “…those who begin their careers early and maintain prolific level of output will be expected to continue productivity until late in life.” 
    Finally, while there seems to be a difference in lifelong development of creativity and wisdom it could be that they converge, there is still much work that needs to be done.  I need to quit now because I have an acrylic painting upstairs that I’ve been working on for three days.  And, I hope I haven’t caused confusion and I highly recommend that you get a hold of the book cited below; it’s great

[i]  Simonton, D. K. (1990) Chapter 19 In The Handbook of the Psychology of             Ageing (3rd Ed) Academic press   978-0121012649

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'll Never be a Rembrant but.....

Don’t Sweat #3[i]
The Hobbyist

       When we are young children many of us develop an ongoing interest in hobbies.  This is before we were encouraged to study in preparation for our main life of work.  It can go from collecting stamps (I did a bit of that) to toy airplanes.
         Retirement is a good time to either return to original hobbies or begin new ones. Over the past few years I have enjoyed woodcarving.  Then I began a new pattern of painting; first with watercolor and since I’ve retired with Acrylic.
       I have always enjoyed reading novels including the works of Robert Ludlum, Brian Herbert, Terry Brooks, and Stephen King.   They are on my bookshelves and recently I have started reading them again.
       I also enjoy regular exercise for example for the last month I have, just after waking in the morning gone for a 45 to 60 minute jog. This is also because I have a goal to lose weight). My birthday is mid October and I wish to be under 200 pounds by then and I enjoy the trip especially the part in a local forest.
       The author does tell us that “One thing to keep in mind as you revisit or create hobbies—these pursuits often carry a price tag. Daily workouts may require purchase of exercise equipment or membership in a fitness centre. Becoming a diehard sports fan may involve purchase of game tickets, as well as travel and parking costs at sporting arenas. If your hobby involves renovating cars or other types of equipment, you may have to lay out money for parts. In some cases, however, hobbies can lead to money making ventures.”
       In my case have had to pay painting equipment like brushes, paint and canvases.  But, who knows, perhaps some day I’ll be able to sell a painting or two.

[i]    Don’t Sweat Chapter 2  pages 74-75

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Let's Use Wisdom In Old Age

Don’t Become a Victim[i]

         The news is frequently reporting stories of older persons being victimized. Aging includes the risk as being seen of easy targets. When I road my bike downtown to get my watch fixed, my wife reminded me that there have been many cases of people having things stolen from them in broad daylight. So I took my bike inside the building with me. And it’s not just about losing your bike. This chapter of Don’t Sweat tells us that there is no reason that we become victimized.  “If you follow a certain protocol, not only will you avoid being duped, but you may also be able to turn the table on would-be thieves.” 
         Demand offers in writing.  Sales people often come to the door or contact us by phone. “If the offer is legit, a sales representative will have not problem producing a written version of it.”  Then we don’t have to rush to make a decision. And depending on the amount of money involved you might just want your attorney to take a look at it and you’ll have a record of what they want to sell you. If no written material, forget it.
         Treat your home as a castle. Don’t let them in until you feel you can trust them.  Have them produce some kind of identification like a company badge with a name and phone number. Tell them to wait outside while you call the verify their information. “This is prudent, not rude.”
         Contact proper Authorities If you have questions call the appropriate authorities.  If there is a problem it’s better to have them now than later, after you have been victimized.  “If it turns out that you helped uncover some sort of crime, you’ll have done a tremendous service for yourself and fellow retirees.”

[i] Don’t Sweat   Chapter 43 on pages 95 & 96

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another Form of Ageism

Ageism in the Media. Who’s Having a “Senior’s Moment?”[i]

         As I age, and begin to experience later life aging, I continue to seek understanding of the various manifestations of ageism. There are several variations.  Here is one: “A temporary mental lapse (humorously) attributed to the gradual loss of ones mental facilities as one grows older.”   The article I am citing has a wider definition.         “Although senior’s moments are frequently defined as brief memory lapses, the phrase also refers to severe cognitive impairment and functional incompetence.”  The authors express the term senior moment… as an account or an expressed attribution of unanticipated or unacceptable behavior.”
         When I started preparation for this post I came upon a web site that sells “senior moment” tea shirts. Hum…………  Many people in North America appear to have negative attitudes toward older adults and while there are some positive stereotypes most are negative.  The existence of these stereotypes is one of the major reasons most universities have classes not only about adult development but aging itself.
         The article, cited below, found 136 newspaper articles (between the years 1997 and 2000) using the term senior’s moment.  A careful search of the articles came up with the following information:
·    “Minor memory examples equated senior moments with an ‘ity bitty lapse’ or the ‘tip of the tongue feeling’ or simply a ‘moment of forgetfulness.’
·   “Yet other articles use the term to address more serious cognitive impairments such as an alternative to
Alzheimer’s Moments, a senior who has Alzheimer’s, mental instability, or colossal memory or attention lapse.

                         There is much more information in the article. But to end this blog post I must say that ageism is an age related stereotype that is so deeply buried in society we often don’t even know when it’s happening and “As a result, we do not question the use of phrases such as senior moment as accounts for problematic articles.” 
                         One of the things discussed is how “senior’s moment” is used either as a self reference or a projection onto others.  Let me know what you have experienced or think about this.

[i]  Bonnesen, J.L. & Burgess, E. O.  (2004)  Senior moments: The acceptability of             an ageist phrase.  Journal of Aging Studies, 18, 123-142  For further             information go to  the following email

Friday, September 14, 2012

Creative Ageing

Successful and Creative Aging
            As the Boomers join us in making way toward living during later life, the ideas of successful aging have increasing value. “Current literature…suggests that functional performance and creativity are important in order to age successfully.”  There is a growing body of research on the topic but there isn’t very much statistically significant information about how to facilitate it.
            One study examined the relationships between functional performance, creativity, and successful aging within the context of the Roy Adaptation Model. In it there are “…some statistically significant results and valuable findings about the possibilities for creativity enhancement.” Below is an interesting project that illustrates the value of creativity to a special group of seniors with dementia

Alzheimer’s Poetry Project:  Santa Fe, New Mexico 2
            The Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP) involves people with dementia in poetry programs that include poetry readings and helping participants express their feelings through poetry. The goal of the Poetry Project is to enhance the quality of life for people with memory loss, their families and health care workers who serve them. 
            The program finds that even in the late stages of the disease, reciting poetry helps to spark people’s memories, remembering words and lines from poems and stories of their youth.   Fifteen professional poets, who receive training on working with the targeted population, work with APP to conduct programs in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, DC. 
             Also, APP has convened training sessions for over 200 professional healthcare workers and twenty high school students to encourage and assist poetry programming for people with dementia.  In 2005, APP and the Poem Factory published “Sparking Memories:  The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Anthology” that is a collection of well-known and loved poems.
            Take a look and let me know what you think 

1. (Psych INFO Database Record © 2010 APA, all right reserved
2. Google Alzheimer’s Poetry Project for more information

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Retirement Stress

A Retirement Stress Test[i]

It is important that we deal effectively with Stress. I know from my research that it can be a major factor in memory degradation. The author tells us that our doctors are very concerned with our stress experiences including how our hearts and lungs react.
         With retirement we are likely to face stress factors even though we may not pay particular attention to them.  After we have been retired for a while the author tells us to ask ourselves the following questions:
·   Do I look forward to each day?
·   Am I accomplishing the retirement goals that I established for myself?
·   Do I take initiative in planning activities with friends?
·   Am I broadening my understanding, capabilities and experience?

         If we answer yes to all of them we pass and are very likely feeling good about our retirement.  If there are one of more no’s we need to do something about it.
         Some stressful things are easier to fix than others. For example if our goals aren’t working, maybe we need to look into some new ones.  “When you achieve your goals, you’ll broaden your understanding, capabilities, and experience.”
         The book tells us not to take to long to administer your exam. The sooner we deal with the stress the happier we will be in retirement. Check it out.  If you would like, let me know about your experience.

[i]  Chapter 39 Give yourself a Retirement Stress Test  Don't Sweat

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Mother

My dear mother, who is 96-years-old and has been living with my sister for the last few years. Over the past several months she has become closer to the end. I have always liked to create poetry. Here is a poem you mother


You are my mother
That takes me back to who I am

You are the sweet smell of roses
That gives me peace

You are the courage
That helps me toward the future

You are amazing in your faith
That lets me see the good in others

You are my mother
I love you

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

“Don’t Sweat About Retirement”[i]

         The other day I was surfing around at London Drugs and I came upon a very interesting book about retirement. First, a brief comment about “Don’t Sweat”.  There are other books by the editors of Don’t Sweat Organization; about 15. The cover page always says “Don’t Sweat” and it presents other topics including; Couples, Parents, Weddings, Golf, Travel and Weight Loss.   Now back to retirement.  The book has one hundred “chapters” most with only two short pages.
         I wish to begin my discussion with Chapter 26 “Forming New Social Networks”   It’s only two pages and I will attempt to paraphrase the material as much as possible instead of quoting it.
         The word retirement is also associated with the idea of going to bed for example “I’ve been busy all day, I think I ready to retire.”  Retirement used in the other way is associated with         is associated with more freedom to follow ones on interests. The source says that work retirement also
“…may require a bit more work—ensuring that you will have sufficient contact to keep your sense of worth as high as it has always been.”
         Further, having less contact, beyond saying “Hi!” to the grocery clerk behind the counter, “—is one of the ever-present dangers of retirement. At work we develop and number of friends and if we have children in school we often connect with other parents and become friends.
         With retirement many of these opportunities, especially with those associated with work are lost and it’s important that we find other ways to connect with other and establish new relationships and networks.  Yes, when I go to the local grocery store I see people that I recognize and say
“hi” but “You want your new relationships to be deeply rewarding and long- lasting.”
         The material then tells us that we need to make opportunities for socializing into our activities.  For example if we are making travel an important part of making social connections we can use group excursions  to bring us close to others.  If we are developing hobbies, like my painting, even though it’s a fairly singular activity, there is the activity of contacting others in art galleries where is hope one day to display my paintings. And, I have continued with my Senior’s Society board membership and my Cancer Society Canvassing work which has helped me  make connections with persons in my neighborhood that I have seen for years but never met.
         Developing these relationships we are told will strengthen our self-image as a valued member of society.  So, it’s important to get started and do as much socializing as possible. “You’ll soon form so many fruitful relationships that you’ll never face the pain of disconnection.” 

[i]  The Don’t Sweat Guide to Retirement  Chap 26 pp. 64 & 65, 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Professional Identity

Diversity Within Retirement[i]

          Since I retired a year ago I have continued to concentrate on conveying information both through my blog and as a substitute teacher for Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I am on the board of the local Senior's Centre (for over ten years) and I canvas for the Canadian Cancer Society. I have taken up Acylic painting and enjoy creating small poems.
         The goal of Dr. Teuscher’s article is to explore “…which factors predicted people’s self definition as professionals or as retirees and…how identity diversity was linked to life satisfaction.”
         Somewhat related to the topic of ageism the author tells us that. “Research studies have shown consistently that people tend to distance themselves from being old, even in older age.”
Further he cites another researcher is as having found that “…in pre-industrial societies a biological understanding of “old age” was defined as an increase in frailty—as being close to death.”.
         How does this connect to retirement?  Considering the above “…the more positively a person’s profession is valued by society the more that person will define him- or herself in terms of his or her profession.”  That is it will significantly influence the importance we place on our professional identity after we have retired. 
         The article also looks at identity diversity outside the work domain. In other words “self-complexity” which defined  “…as the extent to which individuals seem to use multiple self-aspects in defining themselves, as well as the degree these aspects are independent of each other; that is only overlap minimally.” 
         The focus of Teuscher’s research project is to look at the numbers of retiree’s identity aspects.  Thus “…participants were asked to directly rate the importance of different identity domains (such as profession, family, leisure activities, etc) to characterize themselves.”  Below are samples of the six questionnaire topics:
1)   Demographic:              e.g. gender and education level
2)   Satisfaction:                e.g. body fitness, interests, and esteem
3)   Attitude toward aging:  e.g. interest, enthusiasm, and Dependency
4)   Self-Efficacy Belief: confident and competent to:
         a. always manage to solve difficult problems if I try hard enough. 
         b. stick to aims and accomplish goals.
         c. deal efficiently with unexpected events.

5)   Job Deprivation: e.g. missing job and/or enjoying retirement
6)   Importance of Identity: Profession or occupation, leisure activities, and fact that one is now retired

         The research found that there wasn’t much difference in attitude between non-retired and retired professionals. In fact the persons’ profession, or former profession, remained more important than retirement.  Professional identity was connected with “gender, professional status, self-efficacy belief, duration of last professional occupation and job-deprivation.
         Following this I can say that I am not employed but I still have great joy in teaching and helping others.  In part because I was the first born child in our family and I developed an identity by helping others.

i   Teuscher, U, (2010). 105 Change and persistence of Personal Identities after the             transition to retirement, INT’L. J. Aging and Human Development 70(1) 89