Watching senility slowly drape across my father is taxing. His sole creative outlet was literary, so his verbal struggle is particularly wrenching. In trying to understand, I naturally put myself in his place. How would I feel were it me?
I also wonder how unavoidable it could be. Dad’s sister is younger by three years and the contrast between them is marked. Energetic and vital, she seems a decade younger than her mid-70s reality. Sure, she eats better, exercises, is part of an active community, but there’s a good chance it’s something else, too.
My aunt has remained immersed in creativity for most of her life. Textile and woodwork have provided occupation; however, her domestic environment with her musician husband has provided artistic energy, too. She is always working on ideas, always enacting plans.
It’s well known the aging body loses stamina, memory and neural conduction speed with age. Still, studies show participation in activities like visual arts, singing and theatrical performance might support well-being in older adults. Creativity and openness are related and can lead to greater longevity.
A 2022 University of New Hampshire study found the health effects of prolonged isolation equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, especially for those over 50. Recent years of heightened isolation have swelled this danger. Some headway against trends has been explored through virtual reality therapy. Thanks to new technology, the aged were able to visit immersive, interactive locations, including old haunts, and reap the emotional boost provided. It might be a bulwark against dementia, loneliness and cognitive issues.
One analysis drawn from the 2014 Health and Retirement Study not only found a socioeconomic divide in creative aging, but when older adults in low-income and lack-of-education groups participated in creative arts, they tended to register the most significant uplifts in well-being. The arts elevated their quality of life.
The same study found corollaries between the creative outlet practiced and specific personal benefits. Those who liked to sew, weave, quilt, crochet, knit, needlepoint, make jewelry and similar had higher word recall performance than their peers. Adults who danced had more positive self-assessments of their health than their peers. Adults in leatherwork, metalwork, or woodwork scored better in the serial sevens test — counting backward by seven from 100 — indicating sharper cognition.
It’s been shown neuroplasticity is boosted by learning. As one expert put it, “If you’re a musician, your brain is physiologically younger.” The “use it or lose it” platitude seems relevant here.
Cultivating hope at MoMA
Amidst our calendar’s most languid period — the weeks around the July-August junction are brutal in numerous ways — come signs of rejuvenation. Visual artist Wanda Sullivan’s new Mobile Museum of Art exhibit, “Garden of Hope,” stirs aspiration as the sprouts of a new arts season climb into sight. Sullivan’s show opens Sept. 16 along with Terrell James’ “One Eye Sees, The Other Feels.” Both run through April 2, 2023.
James will pair with author Jack Hitt for a conversational program on opening day, 11 a.m. Sullivan will be joined by colleague LaVada Raouf for a similar program on Oct. 12, 10:30 a.m.
For 40 years, the September arts festival in Langan Park was the harbinger of new cultural seasons. Then the Arty Awards served the role. Nowadays, we’ll take whatever distraction injects promise into our freon fortresses.
Mobile Opera schedule released
The Azalea City has managed one of the most remarkable artistic accomplishments of the last 75 years by retaining an outfit Opera America credits as the 13th oldest opera company in the nation. Through pandemics, recessions and wars, Mobile Opera has remained a steady presence for Mobile musical arts lovers.
Their 2022-23 season is evidence of why. It balances tradition with newer stories in a manageable timetable.
The season opens with Gaetano Donizetti’s amusing “The Elixir of Love” on Oct. 21 and 23 at The Temple Downtown (351 St. Francis St.). The two-act work buoyed by spurious potions, gossip and subterfuge became one of Italy’s most beloved works.
Things move to the Murphy High School Auditorium for “Let Freedom Sing” on Feb. 4, 2023. The show focuses on the work of American songstress Marian Anderson. Determined to make her powerful voice heard, Anderson fought racial discrimination to become an icon of the 20th-century civil rights movement.
The season concludes with Puccini’s “La Rondine” on March 24 and 26, back at The Temple. Originally scheduled for March 2020, it was delayed by the pandemic.
For more information on tickets or season subscriptions, call 251-432-6772 or go to mobileopera.org.
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here