Studies on aging and cognition suggest that the aging brain has a lot in common with the highly creative brain of any age. Both are characterized by a broad focus of attention and the ability to make connections between disparate bits of information. Areas of the prefrontal cortex are thinner in both, correlating with less inhibition and a diminished need to impress others, which is true of both older adults and creative types. So anybody who thinks that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” should check out what’s going on at Lifespring Saugerties these days.
The town-sponsored lifetime learning program run by volunteer staff is designed to provide stimulating non-credit courses on a wide range of topics for older adults, aged 55 and up. When Lifespring first began offering programs in 2009, there were just four classes available. Now, six years down the road, it has two six-week semesters, spring and fall, with classes held on Wednesday afternoons (since older drivers generally prefer to be off the roads at night), all without tests, grades or performance pressure in an atmosphere of like-minded community.
Lifespring also sponsors special one-day programs like the upcoming ArtWorks on Wednesday, July 22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, located at 1628 Glasco Turnpike off Route 212. The deadline to register is Monday, June 15.
ArtWorks is a one-day exploration of creativity meant to provide an opportunity for older active adults to try out a new form of expression or rediscover an old creative passion. One need not be a member of Lifespring to attend, and no prior experience or artistic skills are necessary to participate in any of the workshops that will be offered in visual arts, movement and dance, music, theater and improvisation and creative writing. The idea is to support the relationship between creativity and quality of life and foster an understanding of how creativity is a part of healthy aging.
The $50 registration fee ($40 for members of Lifespring) allows participants to take a morning and afternoon workshop and take part in opening and closing activities. A continental breakfast and vegetarian lunch are included in the fee, but there is an additional charge for materials in some of the workshops.
Doors will open at 8 a.m. for the continental breakfast, followed by opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. by Arzi McKeown, curriculum coordinator for ArtWorks and a founding member of Lifespring. McKeown is a psychotherapist and dance therapist who uses the creative and expressive arts for healing and growth.
The first selection of workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Those who’d like to try some creative writing can bring paper, pen “and your wild mind” for a session with Anique Taylor, who holds an MFA in Poetry from Drew University and an MFA in Drawing from Pratt. Local furniture designer and history enthusiast Gus Pedersen will conduct a workshop on how to make a dovetail joint in furniture by hand. Each participant will go home with a small tissue box that he or she will make utilizing dovetail joints. Additional morning workshops will offer instruction on working with clay; international folk dancing; telling stories through collage; how to sing in a group; and theater techniques for improvisation and storytelling, learning how to “live in the moment.” A vegetarian lunch will be provided from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Afternoon workshops from 1 to 4 p.m. will offer an eclectic selection of topics, including using photographs to practice techniques in watercolor; drawing using mixed-media techniques; unleashing spontaneity through theatrical and movement exercises; combining discarded bits of ephemera to create a dramatic new piece of jewelry; and making music with others, breaking into small groups to work together.
Ulster Publishing’s own Violet Snow, a writer for Woodstock Times, will offer “Interview with Your Ancestor,” a creative approach to jumpstarting creative writing or a way to hand down a memoir to descendants through exploring relationships with one’s ancestors. The class will work in groups where one person takes on the role of the ancestor and others interview him or her. A class in Euro-dance will be offered as well, billed as “all the rage in Europe,” combining elements of ballroom, folk and line dancing; and Arturo Ceballos, who teaches wool felting at Saugerties’ Perfect Blend Yarn and Tea Shop, will offer instruction on using natural fibers to create dimensional objects. He specializes in creating woodland creatures of fiber, and the class will concentrate on making small rabbits.
When the day of creativity is done, participants can come together in a drum circle with Nathan Brenowitz to experience the spontaneous creation of music on drums and other percussion instruments. No experience is necessary and drums will be provided, although those with their own are welcome to bring them.
Lifespring ArtWorks, Wednesday, July 22, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., $40/$50, register by June 15, Woodstock Jewish Congregation, 1628 Glasco Turnpike; (845) 246-2800, extension 452, www.lifespringsaugerties.com.