#42 Creative Caregiving


In this final post from DC, I wanted to tell you all about my meeting with the National Centre for Creative Aging (NCCA).

I spent a bit of time with Gay Hannah and Greg Finch, two inspiring individuals from this organisation which looks at the synergy between creative expression and healthy aging.

Two initiatives that I loved hearing about were the FREE online artist training programme (you should all do this if you are interested or do work with seniors – 12 hours or so, with a lot of useful learning and reflection time) and the Creative Caregiving guide.

The NCCA Creative Caregiving Guide© is another FREE thing, but this time it’s aimed at carers of adults who live with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a lively online resource, with videos of artists working with elders, and the chance to select and use caregiving exercises that – as the site says – ‘help you and your care partner to flourish in the art of daily caregiving.’ It’s beautiful, and includes examples of exercises from Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, Elders Share the Arts and other great organisations I’ve met during this trip.

Also, I wanted to say that we also adored being in DC! The Mall, the monuments (MLK, below, was astonishing and bold), the museums, and some of the best food we’ve had. (Lupe Verde, and DC Noodles, if you’re interested!)
Over and out.




#41 – Beautiful prints, a lovely day at Iona

When I see something beautiful, I want the world to slow down to allow enough time to appreciate it. My first Tuesday in Washington DC, I visited Iona Senior Services. Lila Oliver Asher’s prints hung in the gallery – which winds itself through the entire downstairs floor – and really took my breath away. The decisive lines, the clarity of the forms, the playful figures.

It was a thrill to have lunch with Lila, age 94, and hear about her creative life including her time as a portrait artist for the USO, drawing soldiers for their families. Also joining us was pioneering silk artist Diane Tuckman and painter Cathy Abramson. We had a great time, and I had a great bean burger and fries.

I really was inspired by being with artists and printmakers with long careers, producing new work, just offering a little reminder about how creativity is a brilliant thing for everyone, at all times, and there’s never enough time to make all the work we’d all like to, and how opportunities can open up regardless of your age.

My time at Iona Senior Services was organised by Patricia Dubroof, who curates the gallery and supports professional artists (all aged 60+) with such joy and passion for her work.

Patricia, the kindest most enthusiastic soul I’ve met so far, runs three artist-in-residence schemes each year, and has in the past brought in poets to respond to the artwork on offer. She has a keen eye for talent, and has boosted the careers of many artists. Wonderful stuff!

Above: At Cathy Abramson’s exhibition, some of Lila’s prints, all the artists together with Patricia (also an artist!)



#40 A small aside about Diana Athill


I’ve read a lot on this trip. New York and DC novels, poetry collections from the poets I’ve met, and pieces about aging and creativity.

Diana Athill’s Alive, Alive Oh! is a great memoir about the memories that remain as the years progress. Athill is in her 90s, and this book tells of her move to a retirement home and letting go of her many possessions.

There’s a lovely section about a group of women, with an average age of 95, planting rosebushes in the grounds of the home. It’s raining. They worry that if they bend too far, they won’t be able to rise again. But they survey the soil, and start to dig with vigour. “The good thing about being physically incapable of doing almost anything, is that if you manage to do even a little something, you feel good.” They, surprising themselves, plant all the trees.

Another nice quote that has stayed in my head is this one:

[The philosopher Montaigne] considered it a good thing to spend a short time every day thinking about death, thus getting used to its inevitability and coming to understand that something inevitable can’t be too bad…it struck me as a sensible idea.”

Thanks to Emily for the gift of this book 🙂

#34 Poetry & dance, rhyme & rhythm

I’ve been dancing all week. On Friday in NYC I pirouetted at a Dance for Parkinson’s* class for those living with the disease, and in DC on Thursday I tapped my toes at a dance and music session for seniors run by Arts for the Aging.**

There’s so much to learn from the way dance is taught to older people.

In the DfP sessions, the dance teacher narrated a story through movement. We were fighting through storms, hiding behind our hands from the elements, then being swept away with our umbrellas. Using images and narrative made it easier for participants to visualise and understand the movement instructions.

During the AFTA class, the two facilitators shared their love of dance and music. Miles played blues on his guitar, Nancy taught some movements. During a song, the elders waved a scarf expressively. At the end, they threw them into the middle of the circle. As the scarf lifted and landed, each person was asked, What does the scarf colour remind you of? The answers were gorgeous. Raindrops, God, love, the earth, baby bonnets.

I was prompted to join these sessions following conversations with Gary Glazner of Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Gary uses music and gestures in his live poetry sessions, and the addition of these elements adds beauty, energy and emphasis.

In my open creative writing sessions, I include body stretching and pummelling. In activities for older people, maybe I’ll borrow this idea. And add a twist, or a click, some knee-tapping rhythms, too…


* Dance for Parkinson’s is a wonderful organisation which began in Brooklyn, and has as its heart that dancers are movement experts. Their body awareness and knowledge of balance, sequencing and rhythm is useful to those living with Parkinson’s disease.

** Another brilliant org. AFTA, offers innovative, immersive arts experiences to older people. Based in DC, they place artists in day care, nursing homes, assisted living and community spaces to deliver totally stimulating, lively sessions for vulnerable elders.