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'Always grasp the opportunity': confronting ageism creatively

Eileen Kramer is reinventing ageing. The 102-year-old dancer and artist is working on a new ballet and plans to perform it in November – with a walking stick, if necessary. “I aim to be walking properly because there is nothing wrong with me except my balance,” she says.

If she needs her cane, she will ask her dancing partner to use one too. “We can do a cane dance,” she says, miming the actions from her seat.

Kramer is one of a growing number of older Australians who have decided to do ageing differently, busting through the stereotypes that say that people retire, apply for a pension, downsize to an apartment, then move to a retirement village to play cards, and then shuffle off to a nursing home to quietly die.

Instead, we are seeing more older people switch to new careers in their 60s, become entrepreneurs, throw themselves into creative endeavours, chase adventure in travel and investigate new forms of communal living, where they remain in charge and avoid the humiliation of the institutional 5.30 pm dinners of soft foods and cordial. 

Kramer is the ambassador for the non-profit Arts Health Institute and has a 75-year international career that, most recently, included a role in the Belvoir production of the Wizard of Oz; appearances in music videos and a collaboration on a fashion project. “Always make the opportunity for yourself or else grasp the opportunity,” Kramer said at a recent forum in Sydney on confronting ageism.

When asked if she believes herself to be old, Kramer replied: “I don’t use the word ‘old’. I say I have been on the planet a long time. 

“If you are doing creative work, you are absolutely ageless. There is no such thing as age in creativity. It is always something new.”

Chief executive of the Arts Health Institute, Dr Maggie Haertsch, says creativity has beneficial effects on health and quality of life in older people.

“Arts play a really significant role in building a person’s quality of life. I think that ability to keep learning and learning something new should never be underestimated, no matter what your capability is,” she said at the ageing forum.

A study of 60,000 older people by National Taiwan University finds that those who took part in a creative (performance and art) program had lower rates of loneliness and depression, higher morale and improved hand dexterity. 

For the full article please visit The Guardian.

Published on 28th June 2017.

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  • Violet  Rook
    24th July 2017

    Finding one's creative inner self can vastly improve the quality of life at any age. I achieved an ambition when retired from my main employment.

    I have been a painter since school days and in 2006 had one of my paintings accepted for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition "Up Close and Personal".

  • Ian Fairclough
    17th July 2017

    "Chief executive of the Arts Health Institute, Dr Maggie Haertsch, says creativity has beneficial effects on health and quality of life in older people."

    YES - I agree with that statement - I think it is proven fact - it can change peoples life for the better - it has been proven that the human being is a social animal - I think that guy Aristotle observed it first.

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