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Why creativity is crucial for the aging process and tips for igniting your creative spirit

My Creativity Coop

For the past six months, I have behaved like a mother hen. Who are and where is my flock, you might ask? It’s kind of presumptuous to even call these chicks my “flock”, but that is how I feel about them. I’ve had the privilege of facilitating an “Exercise Your Creativity” class at a fitness center in Winter Park, Florida. Fitness center is really an under-representation of this beautiful space which is dedicated to facilitating the mental and physical well-being of its surrounding community.

The class is a creativity primer. My chicks (and they vary from session to session) are exposed to multiple art mediums, including painting, pottery, calligraphy, and beadwork. Some are more proficient than others. But I am so proud of each of the thirty or more women who participate each month. Even showing up is brave. The term “creativity” can be intimidating, and often misunderstood. Many people have been saddled with the label “not creative” from an early age. It’s risky to sing in public or have the person next to us peek at our unfinished still-life painting. Unveiling our creations exposes us in much the same way as dropping our drawers.

But, as I tell members of my flock, creativity is good for you. It’s good for your brain, it’s good for your body, and it facilitates social connections, which become even more important as we age. I am an avowed creativity evangelist on a crusade to spread the word about the life-changing potential of creativity. I wrote a book on the topic of creative aging–Be Brave. Lose the Beige: Finding Your Sass After Sixty. My book argues that creativity promotes creative thinking and creative thinking is an excellent partner in the quest to retain even a little control while navigating this aging journey. It’s fun and freeing to color outside lines that have constrained us for much of our lives, and creativity offers us a lightheartedness our aching backs and clogged arteries keep trying to steal.

Caveat: While it may feel magical when you are engaging in creative expression, creativity is not made of magic. Snapping your fingers to summon creativity is not really a thing. You must exercise those creative muscles. We all recognize the benefits of physical exercise. Weight training, biking, skiing, and swimming most certainly contribute to good health and well-being. Exercising our minds has similar benefits. We take classes, read novels and news magazines, and solve crossword puzzles and other brain games in the interest of keeping our noggins nimble. But once we transition from our teens, we tend to spend less and less time on creative endeavors. And just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so too can our creative muscles atrophy.

The Center for Health and Wellbeing, where we meet, is the perfect place for our creative calisthenics. There is a fitness center upstairs with state-of-the-art fitness machines and weight training paraphernalia. The Center offers yoga and spin classes, as well as continuing education programs. Fitness is the focus of people walking in the door, so it’s the perfect place to exercise our creative skills.

The women (and occasionally a man or two) pay close attention to the description of the project of the day. Seasons and holidays provide opportunities for inspiration. Hearts of varying colors and shapes graced hand-painted Valentines in February; “What can bloom anew in you?” was the theme for March. Participants created triptychs (a trilogy of three canvases) telling a visual story of how they view spring. I see shoulders relax as the tension of the day dissipates as my flock focus on their artwork. New friendships develop during these sessions. Two of my students have become movie mates, sharing in their mutual love of independent films. Studies confirm creativity is a stress reliever and builds social connections which are critical in the aging process.

The conclusion of each of the chapters in my book features creativity exercises such as:

  • Doodle for your Noodle – Doodling is a great technique for exercising one’s creativity and it’s a perfect activity for enduring monotonous meetings.
  • Tell your story in six words. Six-word stories are a two-for-one exercise that not only exercises your creativity but also helps with self-reflection.
  • Sketch your pet. Drawing challenges us to be brave. Those first few lines are wobbly and imprecise. Refinement of the lines comes later.

The exercises are designed to help readers nurture this important skill on their own time while also discovering interior truths about themselves.

Christopher Bailey, the Arts and Health coordinator with the WHO (World Health Organization) said, “there is a difference between curing and healing. The true meaning of health is the attainment of the highest level of living, and art helps us achieve this goal.”

Feeling control over our destinies is the best indicator of good health. It helps us imagine a more hopeful future.

“There is a difference between curing and healing. The true meaning of health is the attainment of the highest level of living, and art helps us achieve this goal.”

Feeling control over our destinies is the best indicator of good health. It helps us imagine a more hopeful future.

Liz Kitchens

Liz Kitchens conducts workshops and seminars on creativity and directed a creative arts program for teens in underserved communities. She has also been a market researcher for thirty-five years and is the founder of What’s Next Boomer? a website dedicated to helping Baby Boomers navigate retirement options; and of the blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige!, which focuses on issues facing Lady Boomers (women of the Baby Boomer generation). She is a contributing writer for the online magazine, Sixty and Me, and has been published in various online and print publications. Be Brave. Lose the Beige: Finding Your Sass After Sixty is Liz’s first book publication. She is married, the mother of three adult children, and the grandmother of three grandchildren.

 

 

After Midnight at Picacho State Park

After Midnight at Picacho State Park- Retirement LifestyleEven though we made it to our RV resort in Yuma Arizona and immediately enjoyed all that our park and golf resort had to offer, we wanted to get to a remote area for an overnight in the desert.  About a week after we arrived and attached our luxury motorhome to full hook-ups, we loaded up our Jeep with tent camping basics with the intention of roughing it.

We packed a cooler, pots and pans, sleeping bags and bedrolls, a cook stove, cots, rocking camp chairs, gas fire pit, and a tent.  After all, we’re retired, we don’t want to rough it too much by sleeping on the hard ground.

We drove about 25 miles on a rough gravel road from the farmland and desert to the hills of Picacho State Park just across the Arizona-California border.  Then we set up camp, pitched our tent, and went on a hike through the abandoned mining camp and town along the Colorado River.

The area is steeped in history and there are still working mines in the area.  We enjoyed the interpretative signs that brought the ghost town to life.  It was easy to visualize what life was like in this remote area just after the turn of the century.

We enjoyed a hearty dinner and settled into our comfy chairs and our cozy blankets around the gas fire.  Our reason for coming was to see the stars in the dark night sky, but unfortunately just as we sat down, the clouds blew in and we were sprinkled by the rain.  So much for seeing the stars!  In January, the desert gets cold at night and the sun goes down around 6 p.m.

We put on headlamps and read for a while and went to sleep early.  But part way through the night, around midnight, things got noisy and bright.  I woke up to the sound of coyotes howling, lots of them and they were very close. Then I realized that someone was shining their car headlights right into our tent and it was completely lit up.

I got up and went outside the tent to see what was going on and realized that no, it wasn’t a car, it was the moon.  A gigantic full moon! Which of course didn’t help with seeing the stars.  Then we heard the hee-haws of feral burros.  Hundreds of them! We were surrounded and they seemed to be everywhere.Rock your retirement at Picacho State Park

I quickly went back inside the tent, zipped it tight, climbed into my sleeping back, and listened to the midnight concert in stereo of coyotes and burros under the bright light of the moon. I’m not quite sure if the burros were sounding the alarm that they and their babies were in danger or whether they were braying because the coyotes were howling at the moon.

But either way, I’ll never forget our night in the desert.  While this type of experience was never on a bucket list, being retired and experiencing the sights, sounds, and even smells that night, especially those that were so different than what I’m used to at home in rainy Washington, made for an unforgettable memory.

Still loving this retirement lifestyle!

Reconnecting with Old Friends

Say what you will about social media such as Facebook and Instagram, but for retirees, it has been a portal for us to connect with old friends. Following a class reunion, way before the pandemic took hold and many of us retired, we shared our contact information or invited each other to be friends on Facebook.

In the intervening 46 years since graduation for the Class of ‘76, it was really hard to connect or know where people landed.  But through the magic of having the ability to search for Reconnecting with Old Friends in retirement“friends finding friends”, we have been able to reconnect with people that we attended elementary school, junior high, and high school together. This has been a huge source of joy for us.

We reached out to two friends that retired much earlier than we did. We set up phone dates, asked them lots of questions, took our maiden voyage in our motorhome across the mountains to their home and spent a fun weekend golfing and planning for the winter.

There is something about reconnecting with people that have a shared life experience during retirement.  We were in awe that it seemed like no time had passed since we had seen each other, even though it was many, many years. We caught up on family news and retold stories from our childhood.  Mainly we laughed and laughed.

They wisely left a month earlier in mid-November than we did.  Pro-tip in an RV: head south before the heavy rains and snow is flying. We followed them to Arizona and they were so great about sharing their travel wisdom. When we ran into travel challenges, it was so nice to be able to text them to let them know where we were and what was happening.

When we finally arrived, we were welcomed and shown around.  Recommendations on where to eat, go golfing and sightseeing made us feel like locals.  It was so nice to have friends in this new city we were trying out.

We met for dinner a few times and spent time sharing about classmates we have lost during the past nearly 50 years and shared some of our own health concerns as well as plans for the future.

If you are retiring soon or are recently retired, I encourage you to reach out to old friends if you can find them now, before it is too late.  While it is wonderful to make brand new friends, and you definitely will, the richness of reconnecting with old friends, who know your story, share the same dating and family experiences, and usually have a similar perspective on life has been one of the most rewarding parts of retirement.  How often during your working years did you have the time or ever make the time to reconnect? Find someone today and see what happens!

 

Enduring when things fall apart

Shortly after purchasing our brand new motorhome all of our plans for touring the Oregon and California coast on our way to Arizona quickly fell apart.  For 21 days we were in limbo as five different technicians worked to diagnose and fix the problem, namely that our motorhome wouldn’t start. Not even a click when we turned the key in the ignition.

Enduring when things fall apart- Retirement LifestyleNever mind that it was the middle of winter in the Pacific Northwest, including ice and snow storms and relentless rain. All of our plans to start our snowbird adventure were suddenly canceled.

What I learned during this time is that in retirement, flexibility is key. Keeping a positive attitude, choosing to view challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow, and sticking together as a couple when the situation is tough helps you endure some hard days.

I also learned that it is possible to live very simply without the many creature comforts we’ve come to enjoy. While we were living in a beautiful motorhome, we were essentially “boondocking.”  We had no power, water, or sewer hook-ups for seven days. We were in survival mode and resorted to getting through this time by taking it one minute, one hour, one day at a time.  Focusing on how to get through the day and keep smiling was often a challenge.  Meals, showers, and sleeping took more effort than we expected.

We both decided to take the high road and not take out our frustration on the people who were trying to help us.  We discovered that having patience, encouraging each other when we were discouraged and feeling a little hopeless, and even laughing about our situation helped make the time go by faster.

When the problem was finally diagnosed we still had to endure.  Due to weather, supply chain issues, and delivery challenges we waited five more days for our parts to arrive.  During these days we looked for chances to make the best of the situation.  It was fantastic that in spite of not being able to head south as planned, we were able to unhook our Jeep and went out on two local hikes when the rain stopped and the sun finally came out. A big highlight was when we decided to take two days and a quick overnight to see the Redwoods in Oregon and Northern California.Enduring when things fall apart

We were truly grateful that we were able to make the best of our situation and check off one of our bucket list National Parks.  Before we knew it we were finally on the road again, heading to the sun.  While we will never forget this time, we are proud that instead of turning on each other, or worse, turning on the people whose job it was to get things fixed we endured and chose forgiveness and grace.  Now when we sit around the campfire at various RV resorts and share our story with other RVers we are able to laugh about it.

What makes it even better is that we have now learned that “everyone” has an RV story to share. When a house is built on top of a truck chassis and then you roll it over potholes and bumps down the Interstate and highways, things break, appliances vibrate and nuts and bolts come loose.  It is just all part of the adventure. Now that we are on the road again and our first round of warranty work has been completed we are loving every minute of our retirement journey in a motorhome!

 

Moving to Start Anew After the Loss of a Loved One

Image via Unsplash

Losing a loved one tends to be a traumatic, life-changing event. You’re likely to be overwhelmed by grief and pain. If you shared your home with them, that makes it harder still. You’re inundated with memories of them and your time together in every room and around every corner – all this while you try to somehow manage your day-to-day duties and chores.

Sometimes the best option for your overall health and mental sanity is to move house and seek a fresh start elsewhere. While it probably won’t take away from your loss, it will, at the very least, help you to function better.

This article offers advice on starting somewhere else anew after the loss of your loved one, including all the critical considerations you need to make before the move:

Why moving might be a good choice

Moving to a new environment, whether that’s a new neighborhood or a different city altogether, can be beneficial in several ways.

  • Fewer painful memories: You won’t be confronted with specific memories of your loved one anymore, whether of your time spent together at home or outside in your old haunts.
  • New connections: You will have a chance to meet new people, with different life stories and histories, who may help take your mind off your loss.
  • New experiences: A new home in a new city gives you a chance to have a new start in life, and maybe do all things you’ve always wanted to do but have been putting off.

Which of your loved one’s possessions should you keep?

Your loved one may have left some possessions behind. These may include meaningful items and non-meaningful ones. You may want to keep the ones that they – or you – cared about as a keepsake and donate the rest. It’s impractical to keep everything, not to mention giving stuff away can help you come to terms with the loss.

If you’re having trouble letting go of some items, you can put them in storage until you can decide what to do. Some storage centers offer discounts to new customers, so it’s not always unaffordable. For instance, there are a lot of options for storage units in San Diego, CA for as low as $77 per month.

Prepare your house for a sale

If you own a house – or your loved one did – then you will probably want to sell it before you move elsewhere. There are several steps involved with preparing the house for a sale, especially if it was owned by the deceased:

  • Check the legal status of the house.
  • Get all parties with a stake in the house to agree upon a sale.
  • Figure out your potential profit minus expenses.
  • Figure out how much tax would be owed.
  • See if maintenance and upgrades are needed.
  • List the house for sale and consider staging it.
  • Accept an offer and close.

Note that selling a house can take months. You could rent a new place in the interim if you need to move.

You can hire services to make the move easier

Professionals can make your move simpler. For instance, a good real estate agent can sell your home and also find you a new place. Other professionals you might want to approach include cleaners, handymen, and movers. Kerb offers a moving expense checklist that should help you figure out the potential expenses involved in making the move using professional assistance.

Moving your business to a new location 

Moving a business to a new location will be a challenge, to say the least. It’s a good idea to minimize the disruption as much as possible. To this effect, some suggestions are early planning, labeling boxes carefully, setting up a remote work facility, hiring reputable movers, and having a “staggered” move  – keeping your old worksite open until the new one is set up fully.

Consider your family’s safety

You’ll be starting a new life in an unknown neighborhood, in a new city or town. You can make your family feel – and be – safer by purchasing some gadgets or items like sleepers, window guards, safety gates, home security systems, baby monitors, and safety locks. It’s always a good idea to read in-depth reviews and family care advice from unbiased sources before you make any purchase to avoid problems down the road.

Don’t forget to look after yourself

Losing a loved one is stressful, as is moving. You need to prioritize your well-being. Some suggestions are finding ways to de-stress, taking plenty of breaks, going out in nature, exercising, and asking for help. A good self-help regime will make the whole move easier and you’ll be able to settle in faster. It can also assist you in overcoming your grief.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that moving might not be the best option in all cases. Grief and Sympathy advises against it if you have physical problems or don’t have social support at the new location. Consider the pros and cons carefully before you make a final decision. If you do decide to move, make sure that you plan things out a few weeks in advance to make it as stress-free as possible.

About the Author: Sharon Wagner is the creator of SeniorFriendly.info and the author of the upcoming book, The Ultimate Guide to Senior-Friendly Workouts, Fitness Gear, Healthy Recipes, and More. With both her website and her book, she hopes to provide helpful tips, tricks, advice, and product recommendations that help seniors stay active and engaged as they age.

Looking to ensure a fantastic and healthy retirement? Subscribe to the Rock Your Retirement podcast for helpful tips!

Kathe Kline has been working with retirees for over 25 years. She discovered that retirement is not just about money and insurance, but is also about: Social & Family; Adventure & Travel; Volunteer & Philanthropy; Spirit & Soul, Sexual issues, and Sandwich Generation issues or helping your family members as they age

This site will host the podcast interviews that we will do with people who are Rocking their own Retirement, or who provide services to you so that you can Rock Your Retirement!

Rock on!

 

Getting my Colors Done

Back in the 1980s, there was a thing called “Getting your colors done.” I never had an analysis formally completed but I’ve always thought with my dark hair and light pink skin I was a “Winter.” My favorite and most complimented colors were jewel tones, deep shades of blue, purple, and fuchsia and my signature color is black!

My daughter asked for her birthday gift to be a color analysis and wanted me to join her.  We coupled this experience with a Mother-daughter getaway and I’m so glad we did. This was something we could do together, all while learning how to look our best in this stage of our lives.  For her, working as a professional educator at a college currently from home and raising her two school-age boys and me, as a new retiree.

With my pandemic silver/gray hair and completely new activities, I’ve struggled a bit with decisions on my retirement wardrobe.  When I was working, it was easy to know how to dress for staff meetings, speaking engagements, and conferences. A uniform of black pants, a black blazer, jacket, or sweater coupled with a top in my favorite colors, add some black shoes and silver earrings and I was done.

On Instagram, she found Nicole Kaczmarek at the House of Colour in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle not far from the University of Washington. (houseofcolour_ballard) A former pharmacist, Nicole has pivoted like many working moms to a career that gives the flexibility to spend more time with her adorable son and husband while providing a service to her customers. Her new career increases her joy, makes her happy, and gives her life! She took a risk starting a new business during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back.

I went first and was draped with countless fabric swatches as Nicole analyzed the colors that made me look my best. Once she established that I was in fact a “Winter” on the color wheel she found my best “wow” colors. We took before and after photos and the difference was striking.  One takeaway is that in my zeal to have a new life and a new identity I had departed from what I learned I looked best in.  I have concluded that I have started spending time and money on clothes that were in style and on-trend – but just not right for me.  While I still have lots of my best colors in my wardrobe I realized that completely missing were the hot pinks, fuchsia, and a bright red. I guess I thought those colors went out of style in the ’80s and forgot about what works best for me.

Next, it was my daughter’s turn. We both had no idea where she would land on the color wheel.  The fabric draping process started again and the conclusion was that she was a summer. The entire process for two people takes about two hours each for a total of four hours.  The time flies by!

It was amazing as her mom to watch how her face became almost airbrushed and her eyes popped as her best colors were draped. One thing she learned is that highlighting her naturally dark brown hair with golden highlights doesn’t make her look her best.  After covering her hair and seeing only her roots, Nicole recognized that she needs cooler Ash tones if she is going to highlight them.  But we all concluded she would look her best to let her hair return to its natural color and fill her wardrobe with Summer colors.

In fact, during both of her pregnancies, she let her hair go back to its natural color and the clothing she chose at that time was in the Summer part of the color wheel.  Her glow in those photos wasn’t only from the pregnancy, she looked her best because the colors she naturally wore at that time were her “wow” colors.  This was a huge takeaway for her.

At the end of our session, we tried on three sets of lipstick that complements our natural look.  One for daytime, one for evening, and that one special red for those special moments.  In addition, we received a customized set of color swatches to keep on hand for the next time we are shopping or ordering clothing online.

We were both so excited to get home and go through our closets and compare to our swatches. During the entire drive, we were excitedly talking about what we learned and then when we were home we did a FaceTime call and showed each other our wardrobes. It was so easy to discard those items that were just hanging in our closets unworn. We didn’t love them because they weren’t our best colors. I have a big bag now to donate to the Thrift Store at the Senior Center.

Then it was fun to arrange our clothes in the colors of the rainbow and compare them to our before and after photos and clearly see why these items were our favorites. What I learned was many of my most recent post-retirement purchases not only weren’t my “wow” colors but they were entirely wrong for me.

I think this is a great gift idea for your wife, daughter, or friend.  It is even a gift to yourself, there are lots of men that do this as well.  After this experience I have concluded that as a retiree, life is short, so why wear clothes that make you look ill or washed out? Why not find your best colors and then make a few strategic purchases to round out your wardrobe?  Buy the lipstick that makes you feel amazing, after the masks come off you’ll look your best.

My suggestion is to take some time in 2022 as a new or long-time retiree to really figure out your new lifestyle, your activities, and the colors of your wardrobe. I think you will be happy you did!

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