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Speak, Memory


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Leadership Provocateur Fred Mandell is a compelling montage of business leader, much-collected artist and creative catalyst who served as a consultant to the national conference on Increasing the Utilization of Workers Age 55+. He also co-founded the Center for Productive Longevity.

reverse mortgage newsFred recently hosted a webinar with the intriguing title, Mnemosyne’s Song:  Memory, Aging and Creative Expression. (In mythology, Mnemosyne (pronounced neh-MOZ-in-ee) is the mother of the nine Muses and herself the Muse of Memory.)

He introduced the webinar with, “Much has been written about memory. Much has been written about aging. And much has been written about creativity. But surprisingly little has been written about memory as a form of creative expression as we age. 

“What do we mean by creative expression? And how can memory itself be a form of creative expression? What role does/can memory play in the way we shape each of our personal aging journeys? As we age, how do we access memory as an indispensable source of creativity, vitality and meaning?” 

Fred’s webinar offered ample food for thought to help reverse mortgage professionals s-t-r-e-t-c-h their own creative capacity, both personally and as business professionals in service to senior clients.

One of the most fascinating morsels Fred served up is how we access memory as we age. Younger people recall events using only the left brain (the rational, linear half); older adults use both sides of the brain, resulting in a richer, more vibrant mental harvest — much like life itself. “Memory in age is a big pot of bouillabaisse. When we’re younger, memory is a cup of tomato soup: small, and not that interesting,” he says.

The poets discuss how to age with meaning, and Fred took their counsel to heart. He memorized Ulysses while hitchhiking around Europe at age 22; the poem stayed with him and grew in meaning throughout his life. He relished the excerpt he shared on the webinar — from the vantage point of 71. He also quoted from Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium and Blake’s Song: Memory, hither come. Simply listening to someone as impassioned and eloquent as Fred Mandell makes mental synapses fire with renewed enthusiasm.

In the same vein, Fred explained how the sheer act of remembering gives meaning and purpose to our current circumstances: the present is burnished to a high gloss with the soft cloth of the past, the emotional overlay deepening actual factual events. In addition, Fred elucidates, we may think of our memories as ours alone, but because they involve other people, they act as a bridge to the present and future. “Our memories are gifts to others. We can use our memories to build relationships with those around us.”

Finally, Fred made a crucial distinction between creativity, which is episodic, and creativeness, which “represents an orientation: every moment we are alive is a creative opportunity.”

He cites four elements of creativeness:

  1. deep sourcing
  2. manifesting
  3. embodying
  4. sustaining

Memory is a powerful pathway into deep sourcing; manifesting has to do with public accountability, and, once we embody (live) what we are creating, sustaining it is an ongoing process of learning and personal growth.

Write your memories in a journal or other format that suits you, Fred encourages. Something creative happens in the very act of writing them down that leads to other memories and situations, a sort of positive domino effect that opens doors in the mind. This is how memory itself becomes a form of creative expression, a narrative of one’s life experience. And it explains why older people love to reminisce: their minds conjure a richly textured fabric of luminous threads that comprise their life’s song. As their reverse mortgage resource, you offer them a great gift by listening well.



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  1. A very interesting presentation comprising the collective memories of another person triggering in memories of the author. Even as a long-time student of Latin, I was not nearly so positively impressed with the writings of Homer as Fred.

    I chuckled as I read the final sentence. No one can say the article does not have at least one practical application to reverse mortgage origination. But although few of us could explain the impact of listening to seniors so eloquently as Amara has in the article, we all have observed how grateful seniors become when someone listens to them speak about their memories. Listening has a very positive impact on seniors and rightly or wrongly builds trust with the listener.

  2. Thank you, Deborah!

  3. The Cynic,

    We each express our gifts through the medium that speaks to us. Perhaps because Fred resonates so deeply with the classic poets, he shares his creativity via art and public speaking rather than HECMs ~ which also call for creativity, especially now 🙂

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