We’ve discussed the connection between aging and creativity, especially when accessing one’s creative well can enhance memory. But creativity can go even deeper: helping to transform communities and heal generational rifts.
In Portugal, an organization known as LATA 65 turns seniors into street artists, complete with spray paint cans, masks and gloves — but instead of defacing property, the mission-motivated elders search out run-down areas in Lisbon and make art! It’s fun and fruitful for the participants, who get to exercise a creative impulse for good, beautifying their city while exemplifying how street art can serve a positive purpose.
Speaking of exercise and play — who says playgrounds, like spray paint, are just for kids? Reverse mortgage prospects and clients (as well as the loan originators who serve them) can now stay fit in playgrounds designed with mature bodies in mind. Senior play parks are already popular in Europe and Asia; stateside the concept is taking shape as multigenerational playgrounds. Sarah Pinsky, Director of Client Services at KaBOOM!, the nonprofit organization partnering with the Humana Foundation to build cross-generational playgrounds nationwide, calls play the “great connector” for adults and the children in their lives. In addition to cognitive and physical benefits, it reduces stress in all age groups.
The project is especially relevant as more retirees become caretakers for children while their parents are at work. Senior playgrounds are also a fiscally smart move for a globally aging population: keeping elders alert and active will postpone and hopefully reduce health care costs.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Asking kids how to make senior facilities more child-friendly is in the mix: a Texas-based senior living community developer has formed an advisory committee to ensure their planned communities will feel welcoming to the grandchildren who come to visit.
The consultants are all 5-12 years old.
The children have suggested everything from menu options that appeal to kids (e.g., frozen yogurt) to how-to art classes. Given that art and aging go together like pie and ice cream (or pie and frozen yogurt) the project sounds destined for success.
“I know the importance of having the younger generation around the older generation,” says Avanti co-founder and chief operating officer Lori Alford. “The younger generation learns so much from their grandparents, and the older generation gets inspired and is entertained by the grandchildren. It’s important to connect the two.”
Because we age at dramatically different rates (only 20 percent of aging can be blamed on genes), art, physical activity and generational closeness all play a role. And seniors can still affect their genetic destiny going forward, says Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., author of The Gene Therapy Plan, by harnessing the power of food to change their predisposition to disease. One source of aging is the acronym AGE, for advanced glycation end products, which are created by free radicals in deep fried or heavily processed foods, for example. AGE-bound tissues, says Gaynor, become brittle, rigid and prone to breakdown, setting the stage for serious illness such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
His prescription to get out of the high-AGE pool is surprisingly simple: eat healthful foods that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. While the book includes more than 60 pages of recipes, they aren’t truly necessary if someone simply makes a commitment to eat fewer “convenience” foods and instead focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, grass-fed poultry, nuts and seeds. After expending energy spray-painting the town or playing with the kids in a multigenerational playground, an AGE-free meal is just the ticket to restore a senior’s body, mind and spirit for the next adventure.