Goosebumps – NCCA

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NCCA – the National Center for Creative Aging.  I have no memory of how the NCCA first came into my life, how I came up with the cockamamie idea that it made sense for me – at that time virtually penniless – to go to the first NCCA Conference & Leadership Exchange in D.C., but the monies were raised for the conference & transportation costs, lodgings (with friends, outside D.C., in what turned out to be challenging to access Herndon VA) was arranged, and down I went.

Will never forget sitting in the intimate, circle-in-the-round auditorium in  the Arena Stage performance space, of having it hit me for the first time that the NCCA was based 4-square on the work of Gene Cohen, a man whose book, The Creative Age, drop kicked me into seeing the WHY for the vibrant oldsters elders ancients all around me in our little hometown.

Had I researched the conference at all online, it would have been OBVIOUS,  but I apparently went down, flying blind.

So, why did I go, if I didn’t even take a moment to check out the conference schedule? I arrived with a vague idea of where the main event would take place, virtually no understanding of where the pre-conference workshop I’d signed up for was happening, basically no knowledge of what was happening.  Mind you, I got my first smart phone (yes, in 2014) immediately before it so I’d have Internet access;  alas, I hadn’t a clue how to use it, had to keep asking smartly dressed young people bustling along the sidewalks for their aid with Mapquest.

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Long walks – those I remember.  Not having a clue of the shortest route from one spot to the next.  Hadn’t thought to get familiar with the area, to actually map out where event locations, to look over the schedule.

Had never been to a conference before.  The first time I saw the program was looking at the registration materials, the day AFTER the wonderful pre-conference workshop.

My most vivid memory of the entire conference was hearing Wendy Miller introduced, realizing she was Gene’s widow, having it HIT me right between the eyes – – DUH!  ‘Creative Aging: Exploring Potential in the Second Half of Life’ screamed Gene Cohen & yet I’d missed it!!

What made me think about goosebumps I’ll forever remember?  Dipping back into the wondrous book given to all conference attendees – Creativity Matters: The Arts & Aging Toolkit.

Confession time –  Gene’s book, The Creative Age, no longer sits next to The Mature Mind on my bookshelf – lent it to someone who never returned it.  That fate will NEVER happen to Creativity Matters,  because it will NEVER leave my possession!

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Talk about goosebumps – that priceless book continues to astound me.  It is packed with priceless information & inspiration ~  looking at how creativity nurtures an abundant older age, at the value of incorporating the arts into our  life, of the profound advantage of senior centers & residences, adult-day care programs & long-term care facilities, of families & friends in seeking, offering participatory arts programs that go beyond the “arts & crafts” that so often seem the norm.  To REACH &, in reaching, to satisfy.

It was in 2014 – at the pre-conference workshop? – that I first heard “Like” (Elizabeth) Lokon, director & founder of Opening Minds Through Art, explain that with older people, especially ones facing the challenges of cognitive impairment, “simple is complex, complex is simple” – trying to to duplicate an actual image was a struggle, frustrating, but to create a beautiful abstract painting looked difficult but was simple.

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Which brings us to last month’s IAGG World Congress & the wondrous talk by Marilyn Raichle, who spoke about the enjoyment that her mother – who has Alzheimer’s – drew from painting.  Although the subjects were defined, the delightful images her mother created were deliciously abstract, showcasing the processing from the delineated start to what showed up on the page.

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Which takes me to feeling sad.  Sad that I never asked for one of of the beautiful paintings that Anne Davis Hyatt created over her closing eight years.  Like Marilyn’s mother, from one moment to the next Anne could not remember the day or the date, but she did paint evocative hillsides & rivers & skies capturing her wonder & love of the sense of it all.

That’s what I learned from the NCCA, why I continue to get goosebumps remembering that I haven’t the vaguest recollection of how we first connected – – it shouts from the rooftops the importance of helping people of all ages stay anchored in the glorious sense of living, that the arts, from painting to poetry & performance & beyond, open the way & present a path to doing what I aim to provide for all my own clients friends family – living as expansively, as fully themselves, as possible in any given moment, feeling the thrill of goosebumps at the joy of it all.

IAGG ~ let the play begin!

Deep breath – the Inernational Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics quadrennial 21st World Congress kicked off with registration today, with the full-blown program from tomorrow through Thursday.  In San Francisco!!

Blessings on the small but mighty circle of supporters whose big & small contribution$$ got me here & for the side trip to Auburn to visit my brave cousin, Bob Ripley, who’s doing all he can to have all the time he can with family & friends.  The short trip made a BIG difference I never tightening broadening deepening family relationships at a time when they matter most.

Mega thanks to the many whose best wishes, blessings & “You go, girl”!! encouragement helped power the AWEsome forces that got me here.  Never underestimate the POWer of invisible but mighty positive energies.

Put in a lot of walking today to spots that hold great memories of trips with Scott & Mom, with just Mom, solo.  Photo shoots with Sissy, Stephie & Sissette at Aquatic Park, breakfast at the Buena Vista, drinks at The Fairmont’s Tonga Room, dinner on Tiburon.  I don’t have the spare $ to indulge, but oh I can recall the playful times & the ab fab memories that helped Mom stay power-ful to the last moment of her life in this playground.

Let the mega moments that are sure to fill the IAGG begin!!

Gypsy!

 

It takes the heart & soul of a gypsy to live the sort of life the Universe staked out for John & myself.  Praise be, he’s an artist, so a semblance of that unanchored existence was already part of our dynamic.

If we provided high-end maintenance support, folks would be clamoring for services.  Alas, neither of us are experienced helping older people navigate daily tasks, provide other forms of in-home care.  We rarely interacted with elderly people.  Although our mothers lived to ripe old ages & both saw their bodies decay, their minds & spirits were sharp & their engagement with life keen to the last.  They were old, never elderly.

People often quip, “We want to have you work with us when we get old!” – but wouldn’t think to have us scoot Great-Aunt Molly on a drive or take dear Dad out for a minor league ball game.  At least one woman in our little hometown says she’d NEVER hire us to squire her around because we have too much fun, should do it for free.

Our client list is always fluid & not just because a client has departed us for Higher Realms.  Over the space of four weeks, we lost two sustaining clients.  In one case, the family didn’t consider it worth the out-of-pocket expense.  In the other, the older friend’s family stepped up to the plate – an optimum outcome, just not for us.

One thing we discovered since starting older2elder (just being older doesn’t make someone an elder) is that if people value what we provide, they think we undercharge.  If they don’t, they’d balk at anything.

Luckily, 25+ years in corporate America stands me in good stead in developing work that matters, that people value & give value.  I am not frustrated that some folks think I flagrantly over charge.  It’s of “soft” value, can’t be quantified.  My corporate bosses could grasp a dire problem, but typically balked at doing something that would prevent it in the first place.  Adult children aren’t all that different. 

The same sort of thing that 25+ years ago made insurers balk at paying for at-home care, so people were kept in the hospital significantly longer than need be in order for it to be covered.  Now, covering it is standard practice.   Some day, Medicare will recognize the value of social support as well as maintenance care, but not at this moment.  And youngers tend to balk at anything not covered.  Don’t mean to guilt them, but the same child who sees the need for a sponge bath doesn’t see the value of being socially engaged, if it means out-of-pocket expense.  A pity.

One younger I know, well off if not well-to-do, balked at getting a hospital bed for his mother because it wasn’t covered, purchased a walker with a flimsy shelf rather than spending the extra bucks for one with a seat.  Family members – like insurance companies – too often focus on costs rather than on outcomes.  Hopefully the son will realize, as the insurance company ultimately did, that dear old Mom being able to get up & walk with a good stride & sound sense of balance means less chance of debilitating falls, that a decent walker with sturdy seat will increase her choices of where to go – both will boost her confidence * reduce future care, costs.

We are a couple of gypsies, following the life purpose that courses through our veins.  If that means breaking out a begging bowl to get to events like the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics World Congress, we’ll tap into our inner monk & stand by the online highway.  (And offer up thanks it’s in the USA instead of Korea, France or Brazil!) 

We go to conferences, read books, surf the internet, seek out thought leaders because the ripple made over the past years is swelling into a wave that will sweep across the world to our shores, transforming eldercare into a full spectrum of valued services, from in-home care to a wide range of socializing that provides oldsters elders ancients with the options, choices, freedom we all crave.

Options, choice, freedom defines the care John & I provide.  Can’t do much better than that.  At least not if you’re just a couple of gypsies!