“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was? — Satchel Paige (1906-1998)I am no longer young. I deal with this fact very well on some levels—less so on others. On the positive side, I am more creative now than at any other time in my life.
I always had an interest in writing, but never had time to pursue it outside of my professional life. (I was an advertising copywriter for many years.) I wrote in no other capacity except for an occasional poem. Today I belong to a writer’s club and a critique group. I have won writing awards and honorable mentions in various contests, recently been published in three anthologies and a literary review, and have an agent “shopping” one of my children’s books. In addition, I am a resident artist at a local gallery where I am expected to produce new art on a regular basis—which I do. All this at a time when researchers are telling me my neurons are shutting down. However, Timothy A. Salthouse in his recent book, Major Issues in Cognitive Aging, suggests that “some of the assertions about cognitive aging may be influenced as much by the authors’ preconceptions and attitudes as by scientific evaluation and empirical research.”
I have long suspected that creative people tend to live longer, more productive lives. New research is proving that to be true. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201003/creativity-and-successful-brain-aging-going-the-flow
Tony Bennett recently performed here in Sonoma County. Looking fit and healthy, he wowed the audience! Mr. Bennett is ninety-years-old and still regularly touring, performing and recording. He’s not that unusual. Picasso, Verdi and a host of other creatives performed well into their eighty’s and nineties. George Burns was eighty-eight the last time he played God. Martha Graham danced and choreographed for more than seventy years, and Betty White is still going strong.
By now you are probably wondering, “Exactly how old are you?” I’m not going to tell, and here’s the reason why—I hate the ageist attitudes so prevalent in society and I don’t want them applied to me. I will tell you that I quality for the senior discount at the movie theater, but I’m too vain to take it. They don’t ask, and I don’t volunteer.
When you advertise your (advanced) age, people stop saying, “You look great.” The compliment becomes, “You look great for_____________,” and “I can’t believe all you manage to do,” becomes “I can’t believe all you manage to do at your age.” The interior me is ageless. That’s the me that paints, and writes and does so much more. At some point I may decide to spill the beans and become an aging inspiration, but I’m just not ready. Not yet.
So where am I not handling aging well?
My vanity is suffering. Pretty women get used to being pretty. It’s a very useful life tool. The physical aspects of aging can be hard. I’m not talking health issues. I’m talking sags and wrinkles. I may look younger than my years but hands don’t lie. I know why Diane Keaton wears gloves. “Oh, Lord, why couldn’t I have continued to look thirty-five for an additional fifty-five years, and then drop dead right after the completion of my greatest masterpiece?” Since it doesn’t work that way, I’ll just have to suck it up, adhere to a relatively healthy life style, keep my brain engaged, stay socially connected, and continue to create as if my life depends on it—because it does.
For morel information, visit the National Center for Creative Aging: www.creativeaging.org/