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VAN Forum

Finding Your Creative Art

April 8, 2008

Pat Samples, MN Creative Arts and Aging Network (MnCAAN)



The meeting began with Tom Hyder who welcomed guests and gave a brief history of the Vital Aging Network (VAN) which began in 2000.  VAN has a focus on civic engagement and serves as a conduit for older people and organizations to find ways to get involved.

Tom asked everyone to introduce themselves and take turns describing how they were feeling at that moment, and to accompany their feeling with a gesture.  The rest of the group was then asked to restate the person's name and feeling, and mimic the gesture.

Pat Samples, author, writing instructor and MN Creative Arts and Aging Network (MnCAAN) Coordinator spoke about creativity, saying that creativity is being fully present in yourself.  Our stories are part of our nature, and our bodies are our stories.  Everyone has a creative spark in them. 

Studies have shown that people's brains improve with age.  Research demonstrates that as we age, we begin to integrate both halves of our brain, resulting in more balanced thinking.  Creativity, too, has an effect on the brain.  Creativity displaces negative feelings, promotes a feeling of well-being and has been shown to improve our immune system.  Creativity is a natural, vibrant force and a catalyst for change.  Creativity in older individuals can improve health, result in fewer incidents of falls, and reduce the amount of medications needed to sustain health.  It can also improve morale.  When people begin to explore their creativity they become more engaged in other activities as well.

Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University, has studied creativity in older adults and has determined that there are four stages of older life:

  • Midlife revival stage in which people in their 50's tend to re-evaluate their lives and often find themselves on a quest to find an activity that would actively engage them.
  • Liberation stage in which people in their 60's and 70's decide they can try something new and may decide that risk-taking is OK.
  • Summing up stage where people decide that they need to give back....and do so by volunteering or finding other ways to get involved.
  • Encore stage where folks in their 80's and up want to find ways to make a final statement of their life or leave a legacy that would give some meaning to their existence.

MnCAAN helps create opportunities for seniors to get involved in artistic endeavors.  They connect people wishing to find a creative outlet to a network of programs and individuals.  They provide networking opportunities for artists and opportunities to showcase the work of artists.  They offer information, inspiration and referrals to seniors and artists alike, and provide training to those wishing to teach seniors and others.

Pat Samples had three of her students read stories from the writing class that she teaches at Loren on Park, and then invited the attendees to break into small groups to tell a story that had special meaning for them.  She actively engaged everyone to explore their own creativity....and provided some fun, too.

MnCAAN has just produced a film, "The Creative Power of Aging," which will premier on May 15th. Pat invited everyone to attend this first showing of the film "The Creative Power of Aging" and the kick-off of the Creativity Matters roll-out campaign. It will be on May 15, 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM at the Bloomington Arts Center. The film will be aired for the first time on Channel 17 on May 24 at 8:00 PM. Details are available on the MnCAAN website.

MnCAAN is a statewide organization with many volunteer opportunities.  Their website is a means to express creativity through existing programs, post artistic events, or find additional information.

Minutes respectfully submitted by Gail Hernandez

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