Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blog Move

Dear Followers,

We have recently moved the Creativity and Aging Blog to the National Center for Creative Aging website. You can find this here:

Also, I regret to inform you that our dear friend and colleague Dr. Gene D. Cohen passed away on Saturday, November 7, 2009. For more information please visit the NCCA website:


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Today at a conference at the foot of the Capital, StoryCorps announced the launch of StoryCorps Historias, a new initiative recording the lives of Latinos across America. StoryCorps Historias plans to record 1,000 Latino stories which will be archived in the Library of Congress as well as given to the families who participate in order to create a recorded legacy for generations to come.

NCCA worked closely with the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative last March when they presented at our Health & Wellness Conference in Washington, DC. The Memory Loss Initiative is a wonderful program which allows people with Alzheimer's or other cognitive disabilities to record their stories for their families and again to be archived in the Library of Congress.

Today's speakers included Senator of New Mexico, Tom Udall, who finished his speech supporting the StoryCorps Historias Initiative by saying, "It is conversation that fuels the soul of our country."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Aging with Options

Like New York, Oregon is making sure that their older population is provided with creative options. The Volunteers of America Oregon and the LifeWorks NW and Urban League of Portland produced a report, "It takes a Village to Live a Life - A Community Assessment on Aging," to showcase the results from a two-year needs assessment of older adults and their caregivers. The report was put together in order to start a dialogue about how older adults in the Portland area can remain active members of a community and really participate in civic engagement. The highlights of the report were presented to community leaders on August 27 to raise awareness of foundations, government entities, nonprofit organizations and others to educate their audiences on the importance of community involvement among older adults. Find more Here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New York Senior Artists Granted Space

Due to the recent efforts made by the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, senior artists have been granted 16 new free studio spaces to create their work. The New York City Council with the New York Academy of Medicine outlined 59 initiatives that will help New York be a more friendly city to older adults. Read more about other programs being implemented here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New NCCA Fall Webinar Series with Gene Cohen, MD, PhD

The first webinar is on Monday, September 14 from 1 - 2:30 pm EDT.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: What is Aging After All
Creativity and Positive Changes Because of Aging, Not Despite It

Presenter: Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD, Founder and Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities of the George Washington University. Dr. Cohen was the principle investigator for the landmark study (funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts) The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning of Older Adults. He is the author of numerous articles and two books: The Creative Age and The Mature Mind.

Dr. Cohen will present five webinar sessions based on his internationally acclaimed lecture series. Each session will be one and one half hours long.

Note: The other four webinars will be announced two weeks in advance of the presentation dates.

Pay by credit card at using PayPal or send a check to NCCA.

Cost: $50 per webinar, all 5 webinars for $200

Organizational Members participate for free! Only $250 per year to join!

Visit , email or call (202) 895-9456 for more details.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Model Elderly Care: Mayor Bloomberg Touts Kinder, Gentler Senior Programs

New York City is rolling out a series of changes to help the aging population in the city. The plan includes making senior centers "model centers of wellness" including new activities and programs, using off duty school buses to take seniors to the grocery store during the day, offering discounts at health clubs and free air conditioners to seniors in poor health. Mayor Bloomber's office, the City of Council and the New York Academy of Medicine studied the challenges facing older adults and developed 59 recommendations to make life easier for the population. "The ideas that are in the 59 goals and initiatives today come directly from what seniors told us about transportation, civic engagement, housing and health care. We're going to make these ideas and suggestions a reality," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Daily News, August 2009
Read more about this article here

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Funding Opportunity!

The Creative Aging in Our Communities: The Westchester Libraries Project is currently taking applications for their program. Up to eight grants will be awarded and for between $1,000 and $5,000 to libraries willing to provide a space for a workshop series, coordination and promotion, and hosting an exhibiton or performance at the library. Libraries are required to apply for the programming grants in partnership with professional arts organizatios and/or teaching artists.

Deadline: The applicaiton is due November 2, 2009 for programs taking place from January through May of 2010.

For more information and the application visit and

Thursday, August 20, 2009

News Brief - Medical Advocacy Mural Project

Health care reform is a hot topic this summer with debates and demonstrations around the country. Regina Holliday is speaking her part by traveling around Washington, D.C. painting murals to illustrate the need for health care reform after witnessing the downfalls of the system while her husband spent a significant amount of time in the hospital. An interesting video showcasing the Medical Advocacy Mural Project can be found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Call for Proposals - National Conference on Positive Aging

The National Conference on Positive Aging will be held on December 7-9 at Eckerd College - St. Petersburg, Florida.

The conference is currently requesting proposals for workshop presentations and demonstrations that will follow the keynote address in each theme area:

Life Transitions - The Life Transitions programs are devoted to models, ideas and distinctions about the critical transition triggers and issues for people in the second half of life. Goals of the initiative include: gaining new perspective on the process of making transitions to the second half of life; learn about approaches that track successes in facilitating transitions; make connections between life transitions and various aspects of our lives including wellness, community, and creativity/arts.

Creativity - Creativity is a way for adults later in life to enhance their physical health, enrich relationships and strengthen morale. Creative engagement is also a legacy that older people can leave their children, grandchildren, and society. Goals of the programs presented include: to gain new perspective on the role of creativity in program development for older adults; to learn about successful programs in visual arts, drama, music, dance and literature; to examine the role of older artists in society as models for successful aging.

Wellness - Wellness includes physical, psychological, social and spiritual wellness and relates strongly to personal purpose, quality of life, realistic expectations, and relationships with other people as well as nature. These focuses can be encouraged through exercise, disease prevention, health narratives, social engagement, practice of humanities and cultural change. Goals of this focus include: to understand the value of literary, visual, and performing arts in giving joy and purpose in life; to examine aspects of cultural change necessary to enhance the quality of life of elders; to develop a sense of wellness through intergenerational learning, among others.

Community - The community cluster will examine the role of community and sense of self in the world. It will focus on how people find their place in the face of challenge. Climate, neighbors, politics, passions, culture, services, money, health, values and family are all important aspects of a person's community, so exploring these things helps to define one's sense of place. Culture is also an extremely valuable aspect in community and should be explored in depth along with the above topics.

For more information about these clusters, visit -

The proposals should address important issues pertaining to these themes submitted by September 11, 2009 by Email, Fax, or Mail.

Questions about proposals should be directed to Joan Karins at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Six-String Seniors: Students Prove it's Never too late to Rock

Pat Howe of La Plata, MD, had to undergo open skull surgery after having a brain aneurysm. After deciding at a college course would be a little too stressful, the 63-year-old school teacher decided to pick up the guitar, something she had never tried before. Howe said, "[My friends said] 'you got divorced, went to school and got your teaching degree at 50. You'll be a rock start when you're 65.'" Howe attends guitar classes at the Waldorf Senior Center for beginners who have never had the time to learn the instrument. Charlesetta Welsh, another member of the class said, "I've always been excited to learn. It's never too late. I'm 74 going on 75. I wanted to do something I've never done before and it's fun. I'll keep coming; I'm not going to give up."
Read the story here

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


NCCA has joined facebook!

Join our group and learn about upcoming events, new articles in the field, and use as a networking tool to see who in your area is a part of the creative aging cause!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Storytelling Uniting Generations

Storytelling is a magnificant way to bring older adults and youth together to share a creative activity. Older adults are the keepers of culture, essential in relaying the past and sharing experiences with younger generations.

In the article, Aging Well: Resurrecting the Art of Storytelling, Tamera Manzanares describes the storytelling program, Spellbinders. Spellbinders started in the 1980s and trains retirees from all over the world and with disabilities to read and tell stories to elementary aged children. Spellbinders is benifical for the listeners as much as the storytellers. "The reward of seeing the children and having them so enthralled with your stories is just so much satisfaction," said Norma Roscoe, a storyteller and chapter leader for Mesa County Spellbinders.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

NCCA Summer Webinar Series

Webinars are a wonderful way to bring people from around the country together to obtain the most current information on research, programming, and development of arts programs for older adults from highly trained professionals. They are an opportunity to network with professionals in the aging and arts fields locally and nationally without ever leaving your office or home. Our next two webinars in the summer series are:

August 5, 2:00 pm EDT - Practice: Learn the effective practices and case studies for developing programs in lifelong learning, health and wellness, and civic engagement. Presented by Andrea Sherman, PhD, NCCA Master Teaching Artist and President, Transitional Keys.

August 12, 2:00 pm EDT - Resource Development: Learn how to build partnerships, compound existing resources and find new revenue streams to create and sustain creative aging programs. Presented by Gay Hanna, PhD, MFA, Executive Director, NCCA

Cost: $50 per webinar. Pay by credit card from our website using PayPal. Organizational Members participate for Free! See our website for more details:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creative Aging News Brief

The arts and aging field is ever expanding with new research and programs proving the importance of creativity later in life. NCCA will feature a story every week of outstanding older adults, artists, programs and ideas from around the world who exemplify the significance of creativity when aging.

Dance of a Lifetime in a Lifetime of Dance
At 99-years-old Ida Arbeit is preparing for her next performance onstage with the intergenerational Kairos Dance Theater for "Dancing With Ida," a show based on her dancing experiences in New York City. Arbeit was a professional dancer for 12 years with Helen Tamiris, one of the pioneers of modern dance. She quit dancing to raise her family and teach music to children, but is back in action and on stage performing with people of all ages. Arbeit has shared her numerous moves and stories from her adventures and experiences performing over the years.
Read more about this story at:

To receive NCCA's monthly newsbrief containing more articles like these become and individual NCCA member for Free!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Positively Ninety Exhibit

POSITIVELY NINETY: Interviews with Lively Nonagenarians
by Connie Springer: Writer, Photographer and Archivist

The Opening Reception of Exhibit Photos and Narratives is August 7, 2009, 6 - 8 p.m. at the Anderson Center Government Building, 7850 Five Mile Road, Anderson Township, OH 45230

For information about the venue, call the Anderson Center at (513) 688-8400

The exhibit will run from August 7 - September 3, 2009

For more information, contact Connie Springer at

Visit Connie's website at

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time to Move Conference in the United Kingdom

There will be a national conference in the United Kingdom on July 9 & 10, 2009 to celebrate older people dancing. The sponsoring organization, Take Art, is the Arts Development Agency for Somerset in the UK and they have been working with older people and creative dance for the past 3 years.

The conference will bring together artists, participants, agencies, politicians and decision makers to inspire and inform the future of dance with older people.

For more information and to download a brochure, go to:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Creative Age Symposium: Creating Creative Futures!

On June 12, 2009 at the Sutton Place Hotel, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Held in conjunction with the Creative Age Festival, this one-day symposium showcases various initiatives and opportunities that are enhancing the depth and breadth of the field of arts and aging. This symposium will provide you with an opportunity to energize and revitalize yourself by exploring new ideas, developing skills, sharing information and identifying opportunities for collaboration and growth in relation to creative aging. Be inspired by the many interesting and timely presentations on best practices, innovations, and research at this year’s symposium! The lead keynote speaker, Dr. Gene Cohen will describe the benefits of the arts, including how artistic engagement enhances the function of the aging brain. He will also highlight how research and other approaches and structures can help to create a creative future for seniors in the millennium. jill p. weaving will present on the accomplishments of the Vancouver Arts, Health and Seniors Project.

Symposium Objectives:

Increasing awareness of initiatives in different areas in support of creative aging; Networking, and sharing information; Contributing to directions for policy, practice and research.

The symposium will be attended by decision makers, health professionals and arts and aging practitioners*, gerontologists, researchers, those working in the arts, culture and heritage areas, students, interested seniors, senior arts practitioners, donors and others interested in the area of arts and aging.

[ *Artists, art therapists, art educators, recreation therapists, occupational therapists, long term care workers, physicians, nurses, etc., as well others ].

There is a special registration offer for students, seniors and Greying Nation Conference participants!

For more information go to

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

For The Poet Within

Two opportunities to Submit Your Poetry for Publication

Call for Poems: Celebrating Poets over 70

Tower Poetry Society ( and The McMaster Centre for Gerontological Studies are soliciting poems written after the poets have reached the age of 70. Selected poems will be published in a jointly sponsored anthology. “Celebrating Poets over 70” will be the tenth volume in the Writing Down Our Years series published by MCGS.

A maximum of four typed poems may be submitted. Send your poems and a 50-word biography by email to Ellen Ryan ( or by mail to:

“Celebrating Poets over 70”
Tower Poetry Society
c/o McMaster University
1280 Main St. W., Box 1021
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 1C0.

Individuals with poems selected will receive a free copy of the anthology.

DUE DATE: November 15, 2009

For Poets of all ages:

Send Up to 4 poems to the Society. There is no theme requirement or fee.

Summer Issue, the end of February
Winter Issue, the end of August

Send your poems to the address listed above.

If your poem be accepted you will receive one free copy of the issue in which it is printed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Economy Down, Creativity Up!

It’s everywhere. People are struggling and businesses are closing. Assumed to be the longest recession since World War II, the economy has faltered and sent tremors rippling down Wall Street, along Main Street and near you.

In such a somber environment, it is prime time for creativity to stand up and get noticed. And it’s everywhere. People are reaching for new experiences, businesses are reinventing themselves and the light continues to shine bright on flexibility, change and imagination.

We are living the adage of “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. Spending less is the necessity; invention is a panorama of new avenues to explore and new solutions to deploy. To save money, people are changing their ways. Sharon Kraynak, a salesperson at an art store in Philadelphia, responds to many new customers asking for information and advice about different products. Sharon observed, ‘They have decided not to go away on vacation so they want to do something creative at home instead. There is so much pressure to hold their jobs that this is a healthy release for them.’ Creative pursuits remain strong. Kathleen Lenkeit, 59, works for the state of California and knows about holding her job while maintaining her hobby of knitting. “The Governor furloughed us 2 days each month, for a 10% pay cut.” says Kathleen “Now there's talk of a 3rd furlough day each month (with another 5% pay cut), so I'm trying to be conservative in what I'm buying. But, a gal's got to have her yarn and patterns to stay calm!’ Another crafter has turned ways of being frugal to her advantage. “I used to enjoy shopping for my craft supplies but when the economy took a nose dive, I changed my approach” says Joan Lobenberg, 74, “and now I enjoy integrating found objects in my work. There is no cost, the elements are unique and my work has generated lots of interest.”

Interest in art has escalated. Museums in the western part of New York State have realized increased attendance and membership despite reduction of funds. And it is also in cities across the country. "Rochester is a microcosm for the entire country," said Dewey Blanton, spokesman for the American Association of Museums in Washington, D.C. "Attendance has never been stronger because in tough times people rely on museums for respite and renewal. But attendance doesn't pay all the bills."
Struggling to pay bills is a big problem for many seniors so the education sector is getting creative. Colleges and universities are growing their courses and workshops to adjust to an increased demand by unemployed older adults needing career support. Retirement, once within grasp, is now years away. In 2008, Maryland's Anne Arundel Community College had almost 14,000 adult students aged 50 and older. In response to this growing demographic, they have developed more resources to help them. "We're getting a lot more requests from people who are going back to work," said Terry Portis, director of AACC's Center on Aging. "As a result, we’re trying to beef up our career counseling area."

With these financial social changes, comfort zones have shifted. The new imperative is to think outside the box, adapt to new turf, relish new challenges and find reasons to be grateful. Reframing, the process of looking at something in a different way from different angles, is a helpful technique to navigate through this tough economy. It’s having a new lens to generate a vision of opportunities to survive, and even thrive, in this economy.

Albert Einstein said: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

--By Judith Zausner

Monday, May 18, 2009

Herb and Dorothy

They did not plan to be rich or famous. After all, they both had long, quiet careers in the government. He was a postal worker without a high school diploma and she was a librarian for the New York Public Library with a graduate degree. But Herb had an insatiable passion for art and Dorothy slid right under his wing. Now, approximately 50 years after they met, the Vogel’s have amassed a vast and unique collection of American contemporary art, mostly minimalist, that has been donated to the National Gallery in Washington, DC. And they are still collecting.

How did they do it? They lived frugally in a rent controlled apartment in New York City where they still live today. There are probably more live pets (cats, fish and turtles) than pieces of furniture. When a guest arrives, a plastic folding chair is extended gracefully but it will not stay extended too long. Their apartment is small but packed, literally from floor to ceiling, with art. Having decided to live on one salary and purchase art with the other, every Saturday they went art shopping as others were doing their weekly food shopping.

They’re a diminutive unassuming couple. So in the 1960s, it was somewhat unusual to see them romping around SOHO visiting galleries, artists and undeveloped loft spaces. Many artists became happily accustomed to seeing Herb and Dorothy and looked forward to selling their art so they could pay their rent. The old adage “cash is king” worked. And at the end of the day, you could follow them on the subway or hailing a taxi carrying wrapped parcels of art back to their small apartment. And so they developed friendships with many of these artists and had an advantage as a buyer. Once they were even given preliminary drawings of the Christo and Jean Claude project Valley Curtain in exchange for watching the artist's cat while they were away. Sol Le Witt, Chuck Close, Richard Tuttle, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and many others are in their 20th century collection and you can take a glimpse of some of their artist friends in this short video created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art:

Herb is the negotiator and talker; Dorothy remains more quiet. He likes to study and analyze art, Dorothy prefers to intuit her decision and move on. He enjoys building breadth in a collection by an artist and she picks across the art spectrum. Despite their different styles, the Vogel’s still continue to buy, based on personal values of what they like, on their definition of “beauty” and ultimately what they want to own. Naturally they are also practical buyers; they have to be able to afford the art and it has to fit in their apartment. Not that they have income issues. Although they are both retired, they have anticipated benefits from their jobs as well as an annuity from The National Gallery of Art in appreciation of their donation. So their apartment was only temporarily void of art work after the Gallery packed it, and they have been avidly collecting again.

The documentary titled Herb and Dorothy was created by writer-director Megumi Sasaki who tells their story in a way that is personal and public, serious and funny, and totally engaging with scenes ranging from Dorothy’s shopping at the Apple store for a Mac to the huge vans carrying their art to The National Gallery so 50 museums in 50 states can provide exhibitions of pieces in this collection. Enjoy the trailer

Sasaki says: "From the beginning, my intention was to make something other than a so-called "art film." I wanted to capture how these two ordinary people accomplished the extraordinary in the field of art collecting. The film is about the power of passion and love, and a celebration of life.

The story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel is unique not only because of their avant gardé vision and discernment as collectors, but also their love and dedication. It is through their loving partnership that the viewer truly experiences this remarkable story.

The Vogel’s' message is also about access. Art is not limited to the elite few. You don't have to be wealthy or an art school graduate to enjoy art. If you are interested in collecting art, you don't have to follow trends or others' advice, just listen to your own voice. Trust your eyes and instinct. Simply take the time to look, look and look.

In today's world, where art is treated as another commodity and a work's investment value takes precedence over its artistic value, Herb and Dorothy offers us an important question: What is it to appreciate and collect art?

My fortunate encounter with these beautiful people has changed my view of, and appreciation for, art and life."

--by Judith Zausner

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When Creative Success Comes Later in Life

Some have struggled for years in jobs, others have followed a quiet creative life and many have tenaciously held on to their entrepreneurial spirit. Yet success found them later in life. When you have dreams of something beyond your present experience, patience is your biggest friend.

Here are some examples:

Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses was in her 70s when she began painting scenes of her rural life in upstate New York. This self-taught artist, mother and widow became one of the most famous American folk artists of the 20th century and continued painting in her 90s.

Louise Nevelson was in her 50s when she sold her work to three New York City museums and now her art can be seen internationally in over eighty public collections. Shortly before her 60th birthday, she became President of the Artist's Equity New York chapter which was the first of many art leadership positions she would attain.

When she was just months shy of her 50th birthday, Julia Child collaborated on her first French cooking book, a two-volume set titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Soon after, she promoted her book on television and that catapulted her overnight sensation in the culinary world.

Colonel Sanders of finger lickin’ good chicken fame, had a difficult start in life but early on realized he had a creative cooking talent. However it was not until he was in his 60s that he started KFC and became a millionaire.

Up until the age of 40, devoutly religious Anton Bruckner, composed music solely for the Catholic Church. Then a meeting with Wagner turned his life around and he began to compose symphonies of epic proportion. He was working on his great Symphony No. 9 when he died at 72.

Elliot Carter has received media attention at age 100. A review from The New York Times music critic was in praise of his latest, centenarian work, Interventions, describing it as "lucidly textured, wonderfully inventive, even impish. This was the work of a living master in full command."

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her family's life in the 1870s and 1880s in the acclaimed The Little House on the Prairie series of books for children. She published her first book at the age of 65.
Harry Bernstein was in his 90s when he decided to write his memoirs after his wife of 67 years died. His book titled The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers and continued writing with the recently published book The Dream.

Louis Kahn, a Russian immigrant, was an important architect of the 20th century. He created his first important piece of architecture, the Yale University Art Gallery, when he was in his 50s and continued to design notable academic buildings.
As jobless architect during the Depression, Alfred Mosher Butts invented Scrabble which became the most popular word game in the world. He did not realize success of the game until his early 50s when Macy’s Chairman placed a large order and promoted it.

Charles Darwin was 50 years old when he published his complete theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species which sold out the first day it was released and subsequently had six editions. He continued to write for at least 10 more years (eg The Descent of Man).

André Kertész was born in Hungary and after years in France photographing artists, he immigrated to the US. Now remembered as an eminent photojournalist, his career vacillated until, at the age of 70, he had a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art and subsequently in galleries all over the world.

This is a short list of many people in a variety of creative venues who pursued their passion and realized success at age 50 and beyond. Their achievements took many paths, twists and turns, and surely moments of self doubt. Coming from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds, (for example, Charles Darwin never had to earn a living while Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up with few resources) their privileged status was not a common thread. But I believe that these late bloomers all share an exceptional ability to persevere, a brilliant talent that would not lay quiet, a set of good genes and a stable environment. They have enriched our lives as a result of their determination and unwavering spirit and they challenge those who believe that old age is simply a negative consequence of living.

Henry David Thoreau said “I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

--by Judith Zausner

Monday, May 4, 2009

Creative Resilience in Difficult Times

Yes, it’s tough out there and the wind has not shifted yet. Since there is no economic weather forecast that is reliable, we have to accept this financial debacle and find ways to continue to manage our lives creatively and successfully.

It would be great if there was a magic potion to clear the negative fumes but our resilient attitude will be our best tool. Maintaining your dignity and optimism and building a personal well of happiness is important.

Ian Thiermann at age 90 lost all of his retirement savings, over $700 thousand dollars, in the Madoff scheme but refuses to dwell on the negative. He has launched himself again after 25 years of retirement and now works for $10 an hour, 30 hours a week, as a greeter at a local grocery store where he was a regular customer. This initiative was made possible by Ian’s positive attitude and acceptance as well as the smarts of the store management to recognize the value of inspiration to others. Ian and his wife refuse to be depressed; instead they are focused on gratitude for the support of friends and family around them.

How are artists responding? Brooklyn artist Geoffrey Raymond is 55 years old and, less than 2 years ago, the former PR executive reinvented himself by seizing the Wall Street collapse to generate a new business. He paints oversized portraits of fallen CEOs and then positions himself with his work outside their headquarters. He offers Sharpie markers to those passing by to write their comments on the canvas; employees get a colored marker and an unaffiliated person gets a black one. Geoffrey has painted portraits of Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers), James Cayne (Bear Stearns), Hank Greenberg (AIG), Rupert Murdoch (News Corp) and others to capture people’s attention and give them a place to vent their thoughts. Not surprising this has also captured the attention of the media as well as buyers on eBay where his paintings sometimes start at an opening bid of $5,000. And there is a report of a well heeled employee with a strong sense of humor paying $10,000 for a portrait right there on the street.

An economy meltdown is hard to visualize but artists Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano created just that. The ECONOMY ice sculpture called mainstream meltdown certainly provokes conversation. Purposefully staged in New York City on 10/29, the 79th anniversary of the stock market crash, it had a pristine elegance in its 1600 pounds of ice that measured 15 to 20 ft across and about 5 feet high. Yet it was doomed; it could not last 20 hours and was an economy meltdown disintegrating right before your eyes.

The economy is down but community service is up. Doing good is becoming trendy. There has been a recent rise in non profit start ups, a new surge of interest in volunteerism and an increase of applications to work at non profits. People are stirred to reach out and infuse positive energy in a negative environment. It is difficult for a young person graduating college to look for a job when the market is weak and competition is strong. That situation has stirred some to take a strategic leap and join the Peace Corps upon graduation because they will learn a lot, give a lot and by the end of their two year assignment hopefully the economy will have improved. Even corporations whose stock prices have tanked realize the value of community service from an inside and outside perspective. It feels good to the people making a difference and it looks good to the community and to the public. According to the January 16, 2009 Verizon Press Release, “In 2008, Verizon employees volunteered more than 607,000 hours to 5,169 nonprofit organizations. The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, supports employee volunteerism by awarding a $750 grant to a nonprofit organization when a Verizon employee volunteers 50 hours or more to the organization during the year.”

At Civic Ventures (, their studies find that “Half of all Americans age 50 to 70 want work that helps others. A full 50 percent are interested in taking jobs now and in retirement that help improve quality of life in their communities.”

Heather Gee, Vice President for Development and Donor Services at Women’s Philanthropy Network in Philadelphia says that the group of volunteers at a recent event believe that
“.. .women who have a common interest to give back to the community will make this world a better place and really create positive change. They believe in the power of women working together to change lives and save lives.”

In this difficult time, it is important to realize one’s own strength and resources to change internally and to give externally. Creative resilience is not an option, it is a necessity.

Be the change that you want to see in the world. (Ghandi)

--By Judith Zausner

Monday, April 27, 2009

Relating with Song

“Call me Helen.”

That’s likely the opening words that University of Pennsylvania medical students will hear at their first day of class in Microbiology.

Dr. Helen Davies, 83, is a living legend for her brilliance, creativity, engagement in social issues as well as her personal warmth and compassion. She has won a staggering number of prestigious teaching awards including the 2006 Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award, Penn’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, was named fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the first woman to receive the American Medical Student Association’s National Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001. As if all of her accomplishments are not amazing enough, she has developed a reputation for song.

Not any song. Helen develops special lyrics to popular tunes to help her students remember information they need to learn in their course of study. New lyrics attached to the Battle Hymn of the Republic will trigger facts about bacteria, carefully chosen words will keep memories fresh about leprosy sung to the tune of Yesterday by the Beatles, herpes facts will be sung to Sound of Silence, and congenital infections will be tuned to I Will Survive.

With her energy and passion, Helen continues to garner the dedication and respect from colleagues and students every day. Many students have returned to visit and, after years away, some can still remember those special songs that helped them succeed in remembering so many scientific details.

Singing is a special way of communicating. The words and the music in tandem are creative vehicles of expression. It also has a therapeutic healing effect that has been proven in many studies and is being aggressively studied by professionals in the medical field. It can reduce heart and respiratory rates and provide mental relaxation. Victor Sonnino, a neurosurgeon, can visualize how the melodic sound travels in the brain and has treated patients successfully with music. Passionate about opera which is the coupling of song and lyrics to convey a story, he is actively involved in promoting the value of music as a health tonic and an important part of the entire body wellness plan.

The Larks of Philadelphia is a group of 14 female singers between the ages of 50 and 70. Initially organized as a Junior League (JL) opportunity, it now encourages others to join who are not affiliated with JL. The women are dedicated and rehearse every week throughout the year, including summer. Their performances range from 2 half-hour back-to-back "cheer & carol" fests performed every Wednesday morning in December at area nursing homes, to longer programs of Jazz, Swing and Motown, and performed throughout the year. By joining with professional musicians for a concert at least once a year, they maintain a high level of musical excellence and perform madrigals and motets in addition to the modern foot-tapping rep.

Anjali Gallup-Diaz is the Musical Director of the Larks; she started singing with them in 2001 and became Director in 2003. She says, “While we certainly enjoy the heady experience of singing with pros for an alert and appreciative audience, the most rewarding moments of our performances often occur in Alzheimer-patient wards. When we belt out "All that Jazz" from the musical "Chicago" and I hear patients humming along, my heart soars. When we sing "Peace on Earth" - which we always do while holding hands with audience members - and an elderly resident, who hasn't spoken in weeks, mouths the words while staring into my eyes, my heart melts. There is no question in my mind that Music affords humans (and maybe our fellow animals, too) the surest and most direct means of communication. I live for those moments when people shed their inhibitions and break into song!”

Henry Van Dyke, writer, poet, essayist, said: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

--By Judith Zausner

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Frugal Art of Giving

With the economy in a tailspin, financial worries all around us , how can we continue to give in the same way as we have in the past? With creative approaches, gift giving can still feel wonderful and generous. There are many ways to give joy and kindness to others without feeling impoverished. Remember that it is your thoughtfulness that is an integral part of gift giving and never hesitate to use plenty of colorful tissues and ribbons to make your gift look ultra fabulous!


There are boundless opportunities to craft your gifts; some more expensive and time consuming than others. For frugal approaches, try the following:

--Create a stack of greeting cards with your favorite rubber stamps and/or embellishments and tie the package with a festive ribbon. No stamps? Cut a potato in half lengthwise, carve it and dip it in paint and you have a stamp!

--Sentiments are always strong so making a scrapbook page with personal items, quotes, poetry and photos, will be a sure hit!

--Buy an inexpensive picture frame for your special photo (maybe it’s you, or the recipient or a pet); with extra time you can decorate the frame by gluing on some extra buttons you have stashed with your other sewing notions.


Take another look at disposables that would otherwise be in your trash; it is likely that you can reuse them to make wonderful gifts. With scraps of printed cotton fabric and Modge Podge glue, I used a decoupage technique to cover empty toilet paper rolls. The result? Elegant napkin ring holders, decorated with fun trimming on one end, are always an attraction at my dinner table with guests!

Found objects can have multiple lives. I rescued a crushed car hubcap from the road to make a fabulous picture frame. The embedded dirt actually gave it a special and wonderful shadow effect.


Everyone loves homemade goodies. If you don’t enjoy baking cakes or cookies from scratch, try using a mix; there are many wonderful brands that will produce excellent results even for the gluten free diet.

Another approach is to buy bags of colorful loose candy and layer them in an inexpensive glass container with a lid. Tie a pretty bow on the neck of the jar and it looks great!


Gather beautiful fruits and make your own gift basket. To make it extra attractive, place a paper doily in between the fruits or a large one under each one. Another basket may be a collection of travel size toiletries which you may have from hotel visits or cosmetic bonus packs. Add a special touch in the basket with a washcloth rolled up and tied with a ribbon and even a little miniature toy for fun! There are plenty of ideas that can fill your basket so just think of a theme and fill it up!


Buying a plant is usually affordable but you can also share a plant that you have in your home. Fill a new pot with soil and carefully separate part of your plant and repot it as a gift with a special ribbon. Want to get fancy? Take some acrylic paint and paint a pattern on the pot!


We all have received gifts that we did not want, tried to look the other way but graciously accepted with a smile and a thank you. These gifts need to be recycled and given to those people who will enjoy and appreciate them! Now is the perfect time to look in your closets, on your shelves and through those storage bins to find gifts to recycle. If you are scratching your head and not coming up with possible gift recipients, donate it!

When the material world of gift giving still leaves you in a quandary, consider ways to give of yourself.


This is a fabulous way to give a gift of yourself! Print out certificates for house cleaning, dog walking, car washing, babysitting or any other service that you can provide that is valued by the recipient.


Volunteers are an important part of our society. When you volunteer and donate your time to an organization, you are giving to people in need. This is truly a way to honor the spirit of the holidays by supporting the organization or charity that helps others. If you do not know who to contact or where to go, try for local opportunities.

We are living in extraordinary times and we are challenged to maintain our positive sense of self. By giving to others and being remarkable in our kindness to others, we can flourish and build a better society.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet, said “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”

What gift ideas do you have in addition to the suggestions listed above?

--By Judith Zausner

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are You a Penguin or a Peacock?

Or an eagle? Or maybe a swan? Or what about a mockingbird?
BJ Gallagher Hateley and Warren Schmidt have written the fabulous book, A Peacock in the Land of Penguins: A Fable about Creativity & Courage. It is charming and piercing, funny and poignant; a testimony to the beauty of being different in any organization and the struggle to gain a voice. Penguins are metaphorically portrayed as corporate styled birds in an icy climate dressed formally and universally in black and white attire at all times. Outsiders are other birds who have different but noble intentions and, despite integration efforts, cannot succeed in the penguins’ insular clan type organization. Ultimately these distinct feathered beings find themselves in a new space that embraces their uniqueness and offers them the freedom to be who they are; explore and invent opportunities, share their wisdom, reflect on possibilities and dream their dreams.
Are you a penguin or a peacock? Do you find it easy and safe to conform to a structured environment or do you fan your beautifully colored feathers wide and strut to a different drummer? Can you really change who you are or do you even want to?
Many large organizations have seemed to clone their staff to maintain internal harmony. The invisible logic is that employee sameness will allow the wheels to turn year after year without the risky diversion of change or implementation of new ideas. But this creates staleness in a competitive climate and hostile game playing to the more industrious person with good ideas and intentions. Eventually creative individuals find their paths but it is not often an easy journey. There are some companies that value special strengths (creative industries and small businesses are more open than their corporate counterparts) and will realize the value of these special birds but many “exotic birds” will find solace in building their own business on their own terms.
It is a credit to large companies that realize the instructional value of this book and teach diversity training and mutual respect among employees. The corporate climate is not friendly to peacocks but then it harbors grudges against outsiders of all types. And yet, it is important for penguins and peacocks to learn, listen and accept differences in one another without molting feathers. It is a life lesson for everyone whether or not they are still in the workplace.
So how did B.J. realize the world of penguins and peacocks? She was “much like the lead character…colorful and extravagant, noisy and messy, a bird who is difficult to ignore.”
She said, “ I lived it. I was working at the Los Angeles Times in the late 1980's and early 90's; we held regular meetings of the executive and middle management groups to review circulation figures, assess advertising revenues, and plan new goals. These meetings were always the same: The president with all his vice presidents and directors would sit in the front row in the elegant auditorium, and the publisher began the meeting by introducing each of them. One-by-one they would pop up out of their chairs and turn to face the 200 middle managers in the rows behind them. They all wore dark suits, white shirts, and business ties; they were all about the same height, save one or two tall ones; and all but one were white males (the lone female penguin wore a dark suit and pearls). By all appearances, you would think they all went to the same barber and the same tailor!

One morning I was sitting in one of these meetings, watching these fellows, like so many jack-in-the-boxes popping up, one right after another. “Huh!” I thought to myself, “They all look like penguins.” Then I looked down at myself. I was wearing my favorite Carole Little dress, a bright and bold floral, mid-calf, a bit flouncy (but very slimming). “What's wrong with this picture?” I asked myself. “I'm like a peacock in the midst of all these penguins!” I shook my head, wondering how this could have happened. How did I end up here?

Thus the metaphor was born.”

--Judith Zausner

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Soon after returning from a trip to see her first grandchild, Laniere Gresham started writing poetry. It just happened. And it gave her pleasure and pride. Some years later at the age of 56, she suffered a major stroke from a cerebral hemorrhage and doctors gave her only a 50/50 chance of survival. She could not talk or use her right hand yet 6 months later, with the encouragement of family and friends, she was writing again. “I did not have the speed but I still had the creativity in me” says Laniere. And then she won a prize for one of her early poems. This is one of Laniere’s poems:


Cicadas bought the sound waves

this summer, rented my trees

for orgies, assaulted my ears

with endless love songs_____

yet excluded me.

Sometimes it is a life changing event that propels us to express our inner creativity. It could be a positive event like the birth of a child or the sadness felt from the death of a loved one. We are stirred from our day-to-day ritual ways to focus on the change. Our emotions swell. We need to talk about it. And to reflect on this event and allow its release from our constant daily thoughts, writing is an excellent tool. It may be poetry or journaling or scrapbooking using photos with comments. There is no time limit; you will express yourself when you are ready and in the way that feels right for you.

Your writing may be personal and private or a project that you want to share. There is no right or wrong approach; what may feel private today can be shared tomorrow. Sometimes a recovery process is so difficult that we need to nurse our inner turmoil. However our healing is expedited by recognizing the pain and releasing it. It is important to validate your experience; to create permanence of your thoughts and feelings on paper or on the computer. Writing can help move you forward creatively and cathartically; it is the experience of liberating yourself that is both empowering and healing.

So it is not surprising that poetry therapy is valued by people all over the world whether they are home based or in an education setting, facility or other communal environment. The National Association of Poetry Therapy , , provides certification through to individuals who wish to guide and mentor others using words of expression through teaching, therapy or the ministries. And in our medical world, poetry can offer a profound sense of relief and healing. Dr. Rafael Campo,, teaches and practices medicine at Harvard Medical School. He writes poetry and also writes about the practice of using poetry with his patients. With the tools of integrative medicine, he approaches healing dynamically with the heart, mind and soul of a caring physician set on empowering patients to fight for wellness.

Take some time to think, dream your thoughts and express yourself. Healing can happen at any time and in many ways.

Gloria Steinem, American Writer and Activist: “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.”

--By Judith Zausner