January 18, 2008


The Church by Grandma Moses

Four million Americans have Alzheimer's Disease ( AD) and this could increase to more than 14 million in the next few decades. A cure has not been found and so prevention is the next best thing. Such things as eating healthy and keeping your mind and body active are important.

According to a recent study from the American academy of Neurology, "people who kept active physically or mentally -through hobbies such as gardening, exercise, reading, painting, or playing board games - were less likely to develop AD later in life than those who engaged in "passive" activities, like watching television and attending church. "

Grandma Moses had it right. She took up painting at the age of 67 and continued it to her death at 101. Picasso also had a rather long and interesting life, as do many artists . Monet was both an avid artist and gardener that lived to a ripe old age.

I'm reading an interesting book by Dr. Gene Cohen, The Creative Age : Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life. Dr. Cohen is a pioneer in studying the link between creativity and its effect on the way the human brain ages and this is his first book on the subject.

He and his researchers found marked improvement in the overall health of those who took part in intensive creative activities. It appears that such stimulation leads to a boost in the immune system.

I'm not advocating that you jump on a treadmill and do the New York Times crossword puzzle at the same time. Just get off the couch and do something creative would be a good start.

I think that this book will at least change some people's way of thinking about us old geezers. Used to be if an old person did something outstanding or even just okay folks would remark that they did it " despite their age. " Now maybe they'll realize they did it because of their age.

When the youngun's at the garden center offer to help me load up 50 lb. bags of mulch they look at me with astonishment when I reply " Not unless you're going with me and help me landscape. "


  1. This is such encouraging news, but definitely not surprising. My aunt, who is pushing 80, has never been as creative as she has in the last 5 years. She has become an accomplished watercolorist, selling her artwork & having it on public display. (She also gardens & does community theater.) She's my role model. I hope I have half that much energy when I reach that age.

  2. I'm glad you have a great role model in your aunt. All that creativity will no doubt keep her here a little longer.

  3. I love it, More than once I have freaked out people because of my strength. I just got back from my mall-walk, as much as I hate walking in that sterile environment, I have to be ready when Spring rolls around!

  4. Somewhat related, I got the warm fluffies when I recently designed a poster for a local African-American Cultural Center.

    We took a watercolor by an artist, created a limited-edition poster and sold 20 of them for $145 a piece. From the success of the poster, the artist has been invited to exhibit his work in our local Science Museum. He's never sold a piece before and has not painted in years.

    Because of the renewed interest in his work, at 85, he's starting to paint again!

  5. Love this post. Very apropos and you related it to gardening too. This is an article in the making.

  6. Thanks for that inspiring story, Jim. That is incredible !

    Dee, thanks for your comment.

  7. Great post Carolyn Gail. I've never understood this age-ist thingy, maybe because I have had so many rolemodels in my life showing me that you can lead a full life, discover new things and be creative at any age. My maternal grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday by wearing a bright red suit, shoes, earrings and matching lipstick. She was a very creative and active person (travelled a lot) and fun too. My paternal grandfather managed to fall out of an apple tree (he was pruning it) at the age of 89. A few years later (he was 94 ) he fell of his bike. Now I don't want to live up to the falling off thingy, but the active bit is very appealing. ;-) Also when I was 24 my best friend and neighbour was a very kind and creative woman of 82. We both loved cats, gardening and embroidery too. And she painted, went on holidays, had zillions of friends, in short she led a full life. She lived to be 93.

    That book by dr G. Cohen sounds very interesting!

  8. Thanks, Yolanda Elizabet. You certainly have had a lot of positive role models in your life.

  9. Excellent post, Carolyn ... count me in for the read. I also believe we are a new generation and much 'creativity' will come from baby-boomers. In between health care issues with my sister, I'm back editing my novel written 4 years ago, anxious to 'kick it out the door' but at the rate I'm progressing, I resemble Helen Hooven Santmyer's (50 years of work novel) "...AND LADIES OF THE CLUB" ... published when she was 88!

  10. What's four years for a great book or a masterpiece, Joey ? Hope you get to finish your novel. Sorry to hear about health care issues with your sister, which is very worrisome indeed.

  11. Hmmmm, not a one of us is getting younger if you go by the calendar, but we can all "be younger" every day with our attitudes, how we approach life and what we decide to do with the day. You are right, get up off the couch and just do something! Thank God I can still load my own 40 and 50 lbs bags at the garden center because those kids they have working there sure don't seem to want to do it somedays!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  12. Lifting those 40-50 lb. bags is good for the bones, no matter what age you are. You are absolutely right that how we approach life and do with each day makes us younger in attitude alone.

  13. I'll look for this book, too. Thanks for the recommend, none of us are getting any younger!

  14. Interesting post, Carolyn!
    It was always fun to do presentations on Grandma Moses for the Picture Lady Program when my kids were in elementary school, and I found her life inspiring when I was in my twenties. Several decades later, it's inspiring to hope that we can still chase our dreams, and that the quest may even be good for us.

    On the other hand, correlation is not equivalent to cause and effect, and some studies show changes in the brain decades before AD is apparent. There's a chance that choosing to engage in passive rather than creative activities in middle age is a very early symptom of this sad disease rather than a contributing factor.

    But whether or not it's theraputic, I'm staying in the garden!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Hi, Muum. You'll find it great reading.


    Thanks for the input. As mentioned no one knows the cause or has a cure for AD. It's particularly sad to see young adults with it.

    Dr. Cohen was the first to do an extensive study on subjects aged 80 to 103 about how creativity affects the aging brain. At this age most would be happy just to see less of a decline than usual but he found a significant improvement in the overall health of those that participated in creative activities.

  16. Great post. I need to look for this book. :-)

  17. The "Artist" magazine just came in the mail. There were pages of artists in the way upper years who have been either artists their entire lives or have started later in life. Inspiring, indeed!

    And as far as being helped by those younger fellows, "You Go Girl!" ;-)

  18. Thanks, Shady. I used to subscribe to Artists magazine. I'll try to get a copy to check out the article.

    I'm gonna go as long and far as I can!


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