Caring Currents

Aging Artfully, Part 1

Last updated: May 21, 2008

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In his book, The Art of Aging, physician Sherwin Nuland points out a positive aspect of aging that's often overlooked. He argues that the losses we experience as an inevitable part of aging can sharpen our appreciation of what we do have: the time that remains ours to savor while we can.

Nuland's book made me think about people I know who are making an art of aging. Their lives all share a common theme: Each of them has discovered, in old age, an interest that keep their minds and/or bodies active, and gives them deep pleasure.

One friend's father, for example, an ophthalmologist, became a gemologist after retirement, redirecting his keen eye and highly trained motor skills to the selection and setting of gems. Another friend's father took up the banjo. A third became a photographer, making daily bus excursions around San Francisco to chronicle the life of his adopted town. Even psychotherapist Lillian Rubin, who rails against aging in her book, Sixty on Up, and in her interview on Caring.com, sold her first painting at the age of 82, and is now an accomplished visual artist, as well as a writer and thinker.

Today, many seniors are pursuing new interests -- or reviving old ones. Memoir-writing workshops are popular at extended learning programs around the country, along with art and computer classes. Even the frail elderly can pursue activities like tutoring children or learning a new craft. Of course, research has repeatedly demonstrated the cognitive and other health advantages of remaining mentally and physically active as you age.

I'd love to hear about the passions and pursuits of the seniors in your life. Perhaps we can put together a list of ideas for caregivers to refer to when trying get seniors involved in new activities.

Image by Flickr user agent smith, used under the Creative Commons licencing agreement.