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