G: Growth and ChangeramOram image

Carl Jung: ‘The afternoon of one’s life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different’.

I recently did some research into art and creativity in the aging population for a talk I gave at the end of last month to open an art exhibition of elderly artists. The research was wonderfully inspiring as were the exhibited artists themselves who had embarked on painting and drawing at a late stage of their lives under the careful and encouraging guidance of professional artist and art historian, Dr. Marguerite Prins who extended the invitation to me. 

In this two year research project, results reveal strikingly positive differences in the intervention group (those involved in intensive participatory art programs run by professional artists) as compared to a control group not involved in intensive cultural programs. Compared to the control group, those involved in the weekly participatory art programs, at the one and two year follow-up assessments, reported:

(A) better health, fewer doctor visits, and less medication usage;

(B) more positive responses on the mental health measures;

(C) more involvement in overall activities.

Results (only briefly given here by me) point to the powerful and positive intervention effects of these community-based art programs run by professional artists. They point to true health promotion and disease prevention effects. This latter point demonstrates that these community-based cultural programs for older adults appear to be reducing risk factors that drive the need for long-term care.

This illustrates that aging can be a time of growth and shows the value of digging deep to find that latent creative talent no matter how deeply buried it may be. Let your fingers do the talking and let the ego take a back seat as you allow your growing self to come to the fore.

The garden or a walk in a park or just being still brings to the fore that the seed, the genesis, is there for future growth even if deeply underground and therefore hidden. So it is for our growth.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

Deborah from ‘A Liberated Sheep’, who writes exquisite posts and poetry commented on my C post, and included the above poem by Robert Frost. I’m adding it here as it is beautiful and encapsulates growth and decay and works so well with G. Thank you Deborah very much. 

48 Comments on G: Growth and Change

  1. Thanks again, and for the poetry, too. The research does not surprise me. I didn’t have professional supervision, but I had a dream therapist and a dear friend who is an expressive art therapist and my mythology class which includes a few artists and we often paint or make collages together. So, I set up water colors on the kitchen counter (who cared about food preparation right after my husband’s death) and I painted my dreams. It was calming, transforming, and illuminating. I still think and write about many of those dreams. Without the paintings, they might have slipped back into the unconscious. So, yes to Growth in aGing and to green.

    Wondering what I can offer my ailing brother when I visit him in a few weeks, I thought of Robert Frost poems since my brother met Frost as a student at Yale around 1960. My bro isn’t much for poetry, but I might get his attention with Robert Frost–and the poem Deborah shared with you and you shared here tells me to try.

    • Hello Elaine thank you for commenting. It makes me think of the necessity of painting my dream I had last night. It was a huge wave that was looming which I dived into (I do this in real life to prevent being swamped by it) but this time in the dream I was a moment too late and I landed up on the beach with a ton of sand on me and especially around my neck and shoulders. I couldn’t move. My husband was on the beach and came towards me to help. I woke up and wrote it down. There was another dream which as I’m writing I don’t remember but I wrote it down. I’ll check later, and puzzle about both of them.

      Perhaps the Robert Frost poem could be a nudge, especially since he met him and you now see it on my post? I wish him well –

  2. Wow! That’s such an encouraging research. These community-based art programs can have such a positive impact on the elderly thereby giving them better quality of life.

  3. The picture that introduces CHANGE and the sun placed over the heart of man (to me) represents that all personal relatedness in human affairs is EROS, associated with anima, according to Jung.

  4. After a little more sleep, morning clarity of mind gets me to say that God has made creation to be continuous across minutes and centuries, and TOWARDS INFINITY in time.

    Secular science and religion are coming together. Some people call it Evolution by Intelligent Design.

    • Thanks Joseph – towards infinity – lovely! Yes there is a sense of science and secular religion coming together each hopefully enhancing the other.

  5. Thanks J.H. No doubt music and listening can have an effect too!

    I’ve just read a brief synopsis off the book; it sounds most interesting. I’m imagining how the poem can be used throughout.

  6. I’ve heard listening and playing music can have similar effects.

    Always loved that poem. I’ve had it memorized since I read “The Outsiders” as a tween–it’s prominently featured in that book.

  7. One might add that God has created all living things, He has also made provision for new creation to happen, even in South Africa, in 21st Century, when the elderly are at work with their hands and when Dr. Prins is studying and teaching about this ongoing sprouting.

    • Thank you Joseph! She herself is not a young woman, she is rather ageless …always in search and learning .. and so encouraging of others. She also does art work with disabled people .

  8. I love the introduction, “…aging can be a time of growth and shows the value of digging deep (into the psyche are my thoughts here) to find the latent talent no matter how deeply buried it may be.” I also see your essential analogy about the walk in the garden and your thoughts about the seed that will sprout. The word genesis is a powerful concept. It is in the Holy Bible and you apply the concept to the latent growth of the person, no matter how old the person is.

    • Thank you Joseph – and for adding about digging deep into the psyche. Precisely!

      I like that word genesis … not only because it’s the first book in the Bible but also because it can be used very metaphorically, scientifically, medically, agriculturally, every which way.

  9. Another truly wonderfully inspiring post Susan! I love how you conclude that it’s never too late to turn one’s life, and one’s creativity around. Such awe-inspiring words! Thank you so much for your kind-hearted, and generous mention of my poetry, much appreciated. I adore the beauty, depth and wisdom of the poem, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay.’ Oh my goddess I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat! Love and blessings, Deborah.

    • From one cheshire cat to another – thank you Deborah – it’s so great to smile! If I was a clever cat I would make a link to your page, but this cat is not savvy re: that. In time, once April and Botswana are over. Your writings deserve as wide an audience as possible and while my mention may reach only a minute population, this is something I would like to do.

      The Robert Frost poem has had a great reception here on this post, so that is lovely, thank you again. Love to you too, Susan.

  10. I like Carl jung’ s quote. I don’ t mind being older. It’s almost as if I’ve returned to my original self. I can put aside the games I played in my youth to conform. Quite freeing actually.

  11. I think anything we do as we age is good for our health. To take part in your art class they have to get up, get dress and get out. They mingle with others in their peer group and aren’t so isolated at home watching TV.

    Now on a personal note if it wasn’t for my writing I would love to take art classes. I enjoyed it in school.

    • That’s an important point you make Kim – about people getting up and getting going and having that social contact. Thank you for saying so.

      Can you do art at home if it is difficult for you to get out? Your writings and poetry are a lovely form of self-expression; perhaps there is another avenue for you to explore as well.

  12. Thank you for writing this, Susan. And that Robert Frost poem is genius.

    My mother took up watercolors after she retired; she was in her 70s when she began (except for the mural she painted on our bathroom wall back in the early 1950s). I have her paintings hanging all around me house. Friends come in and say it looks like an art gallery. They are a wonderful memory of her, part of her legacy.

    • Thank you Samantha. How lovely to be surrounded by her art works – her legacy lives on indeed! It is inspirational and makes my fingers twitch to get out my water colours or just splash paint or something!

  13. Growth and change are so important at all stages of our lives. You don’t stop thinking–or creating–just because you get older. My mom didn’t really have much time to spend painting until she was in her 70s. I think she was in her 80s when she first exhibited her work. Now, even though she does not see well at all, she still goes to a painting class every week.

    I love the Robert Frost poem.

    • That is lovely about your mom Merril thank you for sharing this. Amazing, exhibiting in her 80’s! What a wonderful example to us all ..

      Thank you for coming by 🙂

  14. What a powerful and wise post, Susan! I love that opening quote by Jung. There would be a lot less suffering in the world if we stop judging afternoon by how the morning looked and felt. Great post. Thank you!

  15. Your post is so “Right On” in so many ways. I think being involved in the arts helps us with our emotions. But being involved with people who share our interests and desire to learn and create also helps us thrive!! This is important for seniors! Too many people don’t realize this so they hibernate and die. SAD! Thanks for an excellent post.

    • The human contact always helps Gwynn and is so necessary. As it is for having ways to express our individuality – and emotions. Thank you for coming by dear Gwynn 🙂

  16. HI Susan .. .Growth and Change – the need to Grow, while change is all around us … then we can be Spring Green, fulfilling our summer’s with fuller Growth, then our ‘wisdom’ is around us and our family and friends … and so it goes …

    Art, Music and literature (all varieties) are definitely the gentle guides to allowing expression … and keeping the golden brain alive and well … Evergreen for a while longer …

    Many other choices too … cheers Hilary

    • And so it goes Hilary! I love your consciousness streaming!

      And the gentle guides, golden, that urge us to expression.

      Thank you for coming by and hope all well and changing in directions that bring happy outcomes 🙂

  17. I am a Robert Frost fan. I discovered his poetry in 1967 and have been in love with his poetry ever since. Great thoughts and yes, we should dig deep. The yearning to grow and fulfil doesn’t stop at a certain age.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Shalom,
    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    • Thanks Pat for coming by and growth doesn’t have a time limit on it .

      Hope all going well with the A-Z: I much enjoy your adventures with The Child, The Prophet and Raccoon 🙂

    • Thank you … the research was very detailed in terms of people used (300 people from 65 to 100, AVERAGE age age 80) but the report was too long to include ..

  18. I’ll have to agree with you … especially when it comes to positive frame of mind! Since I turned 50 I’ve been allowing my creativity to come to the fore a lot more.
    I believe I am a much more content person… even in difficult times. I often say thanks that I have talents and have used them… imagine what life must be like for those who, like me, are unemployed and don’t have the ability to let their minds drift away creatively… it is a blessing to be active! 😉
    (I’m fortunate, my writing has improved in the last few years, I blog daily, I try my hand at painting and my camera is often put to use!)

    • That’s great AJ. Perhaps that’s the secret, to use one’s talents in any which way we can in spite of life dragging at times.But to keep the connection – blogging satisfies this aspect of my life and I’m glad it does so for you too 🙂 Were some of those Dublin photos yours btw?

  19. I love that Robert Frost poem. I am part of a group that is starting artistic experiences with senior citizens. My friend and I are going to do improv at a local facility for both assisted/independent living residents and those in the memory care unit. Very exciting for all of us.

    Mary at Play off the Page

  20. I have a friend who runs this sort of community art program. She’s older and I think many of her participants are, but not all. She has several debilitating diseases she keeps at bay with art.

    Good article, Susan.

    • Thanks Susan, it would be a shame if this was a dominant thought – perhaps there is swing away from that for many, if not the majority of elderly, then a significant proportion.

  21. The community based art programs sound like a wonderful way to express creativity — at any age, but it’s especially important in older adults who may be retired and needing some stimulation.

    I love the Carl Jung quote too. Brilliant!

    Michele at Angels Bark

  22. What a lovely, rich and thoughtfully searching post on creativity enriching the lives of the elderly. It must have been very enriching to have the opportunity to curate the exhibition over such a lengthy period of time. Thank you, and I really appreciate the inclusion of the Robert Frost poem. Beautiful!

    • Thanks Stephanie – the research was not my original research … I did have the link and thought to include it on my post but it didn’t ‘work’. So I was not involved in the curating of it. The Robert Frost poem is lovely isn’t it 🙂

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