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Exploring your creativity provides tangible benefits for your health and wellness.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Research has shown that older adults who engage with the arts in a group setting — anything from dancing to a poetry group to singing in a choir — enjoy tangible benefits in multiple areas of health. This has to do with feelings of mastery, and with social connection.

“This research, combined with Dr. Gene Cohen’s description of life after 50 as a time of potential and inner growth known as the Creative Age, forms a foundation for using creativity to support personal wellness,” says Caroline Edasis, AVP of resident engagement for Mather. Mather is the organization that’s bringing The Mather, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, opening in Tysons next month.

Mather encourages residents in their existing communities — not just those who are established artists — to try creating new art forms in Open Art Studios. These studios, which position arts engagement as a vehicle for wellness, not just recreation, inviting both lifelong and new artists to explore their own Creative Age in a welcoming group setting.

“While working in diverse media including ceramics and mixed media/painting, participants often realize alongside their peers that they have an untapped expressive ability, a new love for a specific media, or a personal project to pursue,” says Caroline. “One of our master’s-level facilitators, trained in art and psychology, is present to support each individual’s creative journey, and that person helps transform the group into an uplifting community in which residents learn more about each other and themselves.”

Inquiry-Based Art Viewing

Mather also has a signature approach to art appreciation — one that mirrors how contemporary museum practices are evolving. Rather than teaching or encouraging art appreciation with lectures from an expert such as a docent, they focus on inclusive, inquiry-based art-viewing techniques.

“Did you know that the average person spends 17 seconds looking at a work of art in a museum?” asks Caroline. “In our visual literacy programs, we often spend a full hour describing an image, sharing stories conjured by the work of art, or even creating group poems in response to the work. These techniques focus on the interests, experiences, and curiosity of viewers to deliver intellectually stimulating content while challenging us to bring culture down from the pedestal and into our lives.”

The Mather has already formed relationships with local arts organizations, and plans to offer inquiry-based art experiences for residents on-site in museums, theaters, galleries, and more.

Mather recognizes that creativity is about much more than visual art. They encourage everyone to recognize aging as a time of great creative potential, whether through music, poetry, storytelling, dance and movement, or even gardening — the sky is truly the limit.

The Mather, opening in early 2024 in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Those who play ice hockey can continue the sport into their 60s, 70s, and beyond, reaping multiple benefits to physical and mental health.

When it comes to sports that you can play for decades, ice hockey is a surprise contender.

“Unlike running, ice skating is very gentle on your knees,” John Dubeck points out. John has been a passionate hockey player for more than 50 years. “It’s a great way to exercise your legs and maintain your balance,” he says. “And it’s an ideal way to get cardio exercise while your focus is on playing well instead of counting the minutes you’ve been running. You’re typically going fast in two-minute bursts, so you’re also improving your anerobic metabolism.”

Since retiring, he plays twice a week at the popular GeriHatricks senior hockey club in West Laurel, Maryland. Currently in Arlington, John and his wife Susan Hotine are planning a move to The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons later this year.

“The Mather seems to offer more than other senior living residences we looked at,” says John. “It feels like we’re essentially moving into a place that’s a high-end hotel.” He adds that they are ready to simplify, and like the idea of no longer worrying about leaking roofs and broken water pipes. “Plus, I’m looking forward to moving into a new community with people who are also new there. That appeals to me.”

John began playing hockey at Cornell University in the late 1960s. He says, “That was during the years that Cornell won the NCAA hockey championship, so everyone on campus played intramural hockey — fraternities, clubs, even the student newspaper had a hockey team. The fact that I already knew how to skate gave me a tremendous advantage.” He quickly caught the hockey bug and, after graduating, has played in several different leagues over the years.

“I used to play wing, but as I got older, I moved to defense,” he says. “When I started playing with the GeriHatricks after I retired, I was one of the younger players, so I was immediately told I was a center.” GeriHatricks games are no-check — meaning little or minimal contact — so injuries are few. Their pick-up games last about two hours. “The range of talent there is extraordinary,” says John.

Needless to say, John strongly recommends hockey as a pastime that ages well. A study in the Journal of Sports Science backs him up, showing that physically active men aged 35 and better who regularly play ice hockey are healthier than those who don’t play. They have significantly lower rates of hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

And there is a mental health benefit to hockey as well: John points out that attention and calculation are needed throughout the game. “It’s a moving geometry game; you’re always figuring angles because you can play off the boards, and all players are in motion,” he says.

John will continue to play hockey and pursue other interests after his move to Tysons. “The Mather is close enough to where we are now that we don’t have to change our lifestyle. We can still jump on the Metro to see the Caps play,” he says.

The Mather, opening in early 2024 in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Aging Well: The write approach

Creative writing can be satisfying and stimulating for many, including Sara Fitzgerald, an author planning a move to The Mather in 2024.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Finding a creative outlet that suits you, and then devoting time and thought to that outlet, has wonderful effects on your mood, your brain, and your overall well-being. “Creativity doesn’t have to be painting or sculpting; you can be creative in starting or running a business or nonprofit,” says author Sara Fitzgerald. “For me, I spend a lot of time writing, and I find it very satisfying.”

Sara is a multitalented writer who has applied her talents to crafting everything from satirical song lyrics to nuanced biographies. A resident of northern Virginia for nearly 50 years, she is preparing to move to The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons in early 2024.

Early in her career, Sara was an editor and new media developer for The Washington Post, then held  positions focused on internet policy making and promoting technology in education. While she continued to write during those years (including publishing two romance novels), she says retirement offers the time and concentration she needs to devote herself to it.

“There’s something about the way writing stimulates my mind — there’s a kind of high,” says Sara. Since retirement, she’s been focused on historical fiction and biographies of little-known women. She’s in the process of publishing a biography of Emily Hale, the secret love of poet T.S. Eliot. (You can browse all her published works on her website at sarafitzgerald.com.)

However, Sara’s writing isn’t limited to books: “I enjoy rhyming lyrics — I’ve written them for the Hexagon Club’s annual satirical revue in D.C. for years,” she says.

And, after taking a brief playwriting class at the Creative Cauldron theater in Falls Church, she wrote a script for a very personal cabaret-style show, Comfort Songs, which was performed in July 2023 at the Creative Cauldron. She explains, “During the early days of the pandemic, I was inspired by Yo-Yo Ma, who put out a call for ‘songs of comfort’ and who posted videos of himself playing the cello. I began posting my own videos; I used my mobile phone to record daily videos of myself playing the piano — one song a day for nearly 90 days.” In her show, Sara described the project and the background of the songs  she selected, and “some talented friends” performed about 15 of them. “I wanted it to be a healing experience; I think it worked well,” she says.

Sara is looking forward to her next chapter at The Mather. “What’s reassuring to me about my decision to move to The Mather was that nine or ten households of my friends have also decided to move there,” she says. “I then learned about friends of friends moving there — including the two neighbors on either side of my future apartment home!”

While she hopes to enjoy more time to regularly practice piano in her apartment home at The Mather as she admires the views from floor-to-ceiling windows, Sara is simultaneously excited about the community’s amenities, including an indoor pool, and looks forward to meeting new people. “I figure I’ll be able to sit down with any of my neighbors and find interesting people whom I would like to know,” she says.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Regular meditation is terrific for your brain health

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

For many, the holiday season includes traditions, expectations, commitments — and rising levels of stress. If you are among those who feel their stress levels rising at this time of year, try an easy solution: mindful meditation.

Myriad studies have shown that a regular meditation practice can reduce stress and physically change the brain so that you have greater capacity to continually manage stress. Learning to avoid stress saves a lot of wear and tear on your body as well as your brain.

Mindful meditation refocuses the attention, calming the mind and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. A morning meditation session of even a few minutes can help you manage stress throughout your day.

As you learn to focus, you’re training your attention and your ability to tune out the information overload and jumbled thoughts we live with constantly — and better attention means a sharper memory. Additionally, studies show that meditation can actually grow, or increase the volume of, areas of the brain responsible for:

  • complex cognitive processes including planning, goal setting, decision making, attention, and short-term memory
  • positive mood
  • improving awareness of body, gut feeling, and empathy
  • long-term memory

Types of Meditation 

Meditation is simple and takes as little as a few minutes a day. But remember — if you want to enjoy the benefits above, you’ll need to meditate regularly, and ideally that means every day.

Here are a few types of meditation to consider:

Mindfulness sitting meditation is the most common form of meditation. Sit comfortably with your back, neck, and head straight but not stiff. Concentrate on your breathing and the sensations it creates. When your mind wanders or you become distracted, gently return your focus to your breath. Try this for just five minutes at first, gradually increasing the time.

Visualization meditation involves mental visualization of an image, which is usually meaningful or religious. While you meditate (as above), you try to mentally visualize your chosen image in as much detail as possible. As you do so, you may also reflect on the meaning of your image.

Walking meditation is similar to sitting meditation. Slowly and comfortably walk, focusing your attention on each step, the movement of your body, and the feel of each foot on the ground. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the movement of walking.

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on practicing compassion. As you practice cultivating feelings of loving kindness, gradually move your focus from feeling this toward yourself, then to loved ones, and then to people who are less close to you.

Look for a local meditation class, or purchase audio recordings of guided meditations. Once you’ve mastered the basics of your chosen type of meditation, it will become a matter of practicing — and enjoying the benefits that come with it.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Residents living in Life Plan Communities (like The Mather, which will open in Tysons early next year) report better physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and vocational wellness than demographically similar older adults.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

How does your plan for the future look? If you’re a planner, you’ve already got your investments and assets figured out, and your estate plan in order. But there are other important aspects of planning that are often ignored — such as laying the groundwork for your future quality of life.

More and more people are considering the solid advantages of Life Plan Communities. These age-restricted, amenity-rich communities invite people to live on their own terms, enjoying a host of services and opportunities, along with the added benefit of access to on-site health care services, if ever needed.

A local example of this is The Mather, a Life Plan Community opening in early 2024 in Tysons, Virginia, for those 62 and better.

An Engaged Lifestyle

Because you move into a Life Plan Community while you’re independent, you can take full advantage of the rewarding benefits of living there. At The Mather, residents will enjoy amenities such as:

  • A fitness center with cardio and strength-training equipment, group classes, personal training options, and more
  • A heated, saltwater lap pool, whirlpool, and sauna
  • Inspiring social, educational, and cultural programs, such as digital media workshops, live music, art technology seminars, and featured lecturers
  • An art studio for exploring creativity through art classes and collaborative Open Art Studio sessions
  • A spa offering signature services like facials and massage, with a Himalayan salt wall and more

These and other amenities and services are designed to meet the needs and desires of today’s older adults — and they also support overall wellness.

Proven Benefits

A national, five-year study revealed clear associations between living in a Life Plan Community and enjoying better health. The Age Well Study is a large-scale national study conducted over five years by Mather Institute, involving a total of 8,228 residents living in 122 Life Plan Communities around the US.

The Age Well Study compared the health and well-being of people who live in Life Plan Communities to a demographically similar sample of older adults living in the community at large. The findings reveal that residents of Life Plan Communities reported better physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and vocational wellness than their community-dwelling counterparts over a five-year span, with more favorable ratings in social and intellectual wellness in particular.

Highlights of the findings include:

  • In Year 5, Life Plan Community residents exhibited better self-reported health and higher levels of moderate physical activity compared to older adults from the community at large.
  • From Year 1 to 5, social contact significantly increased for residents.
  • From Year 1 to 5, overall engagement in intellectual activities significantly increased for residents and decreased for older adults in the community at large.
  • Changes in emotional and spiritual wellness were more favorable for older adults in the community at large, while the two groups reported similar changes over time in physical and vocational wellness.

The Age Well Study’s statistical models examined 1) differences in wellness between groups (residents from Life Plan Communities vs. older adults from the community at large), 2) changes in wellness over time (Year 1 vs. Year 5), and 3) whether the changes in wellness were different for Life Plan Community residents compared to the community-at-large respondents. Analyses controlled for age, gender, income, education, and marital status.

The increase in social contact within Life Plan Communities is not surprising, since in a community like The Mather it’s easy to find neighbors with similar interests to form a hiking club, theater-going group, or other social groups.

These research findings support the fact that, for those making a plan for their future, Life Plan Communities like The Mather are worth a closer look.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Regular breathwork, or the intentional manipulation of your breathing, offers many benefits to your physical and emotional health.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your physical health and mood, just breathe.

The practice of breathwork, or the intentional manipulation of your breathing, has been gaining attention, thanks to the widespread popularity of yoga and meditation. However, researchers have been studying the benefits of breathwork for years.

“Breathing is not new — it’s the most essential thing we do for our bodies — but breathwork is a new approach to wellness,” says William Wesley Myers, Mather’s director of wellness strategies. Mather is a not-for-profit organization with three senior living communities that plans to open The Mather, a Life Plan Community in Tysons in early 2024.

Breathwork has many health benefits; you can use it to increase or decrease your energy, to calm your mind, and to help you focus, among many things.

“Physical benefits from deep breathing are often instantaneous,” explains William. “There is a direct relationship between breath rate, mood, and systems that activate our fight-or-flight or rest-and-restore responses, which directly affect heart rate, respiration, and digestion.” Research has shown that deep, mindful breathing carries benefits to these systems and more.

Emotional Health: One study showed that manipulating the breath can cause up to a 40% variance in emotions. Evoke joy by breathing and exhaling slowly and deeply through the nose. Other research shows breathwork can help to treat anxiety, PTSD, and severe depression, even in those who don’t respond well to antidepressants.

Blood Pressure: A regular practice of slow, deep breathing is an effective way to reduce blood pressure.

Stamina: An Italian study found that the lungs of mountain-climbers who practiced slow breathing an hour a day for two years maximized oxygen better, allowing the climbers to forego supplemental oxygen needed by others to summit Mount Everest. 

Focus: Breath-focused yoga can sharpen participants’ attention spans and focus by changing brain chemistry.

Pain Management: Multiple studies have shown that slow, deep breathing can reduce perception of chronic pain, or help people cope with discomfort. Breathwork can be especially effective with back pain.

Longevity: Research has shown that breathwork improves metabolism and reduces inflammation — both of which contribute to longer life.

“People can all benefit from doing a little breathwork,” says William. “You can do some simple breathing exercises sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Even five minutes of breathwork offers benefits!”

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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A regular gratitude practice can help you feel happier and more positive in the long term.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Thanksgiving may be a month away, but every day is a good day to focus on feeling thankful. That’s because concentrating on feelings of gratitude helps you feel happier and more positive in the short and long term.

“Multiple research studies have examined the benefits of a simple gratitude practice,” says Jennifer Smith, PhD, AVP and director of research at Mather Institute. The Institute is the research arm of Mather, a not-for-profit organization with three senior living communities that plans to open The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons in early 2024. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living, and successful aging service innovations.

“Gratitude can help us feel more connected to others, increase positive emotions, and reduce negative thoughts,” says Dr. Smith. “And emphasizing the positive can create more positivity.”

The Gratitude-Happiness Link

Many studies have linked higher levels of gratitude to more happiness and satisfaction with life; in other words, it seems the more one feels gratitude, the happier and more satisfied one feels in general. One study that earned an Innovative Research on Aging Award from Mather Institute points out that older adults consistently report the highest levels of gratitude, compared to middle-age and younger adults. That link between level of gratitude and overall life satisfaction does not change with age, which means those over age 60 have a “happiness advantage” due to their high levels of gratitude.

The good news is that you can practice gratitude at any stage of life to actually improve your happiness, positivity, and life satisfaction. One study showed that a regular habit such as daily journaling can enhance your long-term happiness by more than 10%.

Feelings of gratitude have also been shown to make us more resilient, boost optimism, increase self-esteem, and reduce depressive symptoms. Focusing your attention on the positives rather than the negatives — which is what a gratitude practice does — can actually switch your outlook for the long term.

Physical Health Benefits

Feeling grateful also carries some physical benefits. It seems obvious that feeling optimistic and generally positive would impact one’s blood pressure, and research confirms this. A study of people with hypertension who were asked to practice gratitude at least once a week showed a “significant decrease” in their blood pressure. A similar study showed that practicing gratitude can improve quality of sleep.

Give Gratitude a Try

If you want to enjoy the benefits mentioned here, try to focus on feeling grateful at least three times a week, if not daily. Here are some examples of habits you might adopt:

  1. Gratitude journal: Whether you use a special notebook or scrap paper, take time every day or evening to list five things you feel grateful for. Ideally, you’ll save your lists so you can look back on them over time. Reviewing them will also increase your positive feelings.
  2. Thank-you notes: Write a note or email to someone who has had a positive impact on your life — whether it was a single action or a lifetime of support. Expressing your gratitude in writing gives you a chance to think more deeply about your thankfulness — and will make the recipient happy!
  3. Gratitude meditation: Take some quiet time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, then examine the feelings brought up when you identify those items, people, or experiences. Focusing on what you value will bring moments of peace and joy.
  4. Share gratitude: Find a “gratitude buddy” — perhaps your spouse, child, or a close friend — and take turns listing a few things you are grateful for. This adds extra depth to gratitude, as you can build off of each other’s comments.
  5. Take a gratitude walk: Take a stroll and look for positive things — from the walkability of your neighborhood to appealing sights and friendly people.

Whether you’re a natural pessimist or an optimist, try a regular gratitude practice. It will improve your outlook right away, and could result in lifelong benefits.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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This rendering of an apartment home at The Mather highlights the endless opportunities for using interior design to make one’s home reflect your style. (Subject to change)

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

When The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, opens in Tysons in early 2024, its modern apartment homes — some up to 3,300 square feet — will offer a great canvas for residents to decorate. With expansive views, open floor plans, and elegant fixtures, the homes are a dream for interior designers and those who love to refresh their décor.

Current design trends are fun and expansive, yet practical. Maximalism is bigger than ever, new textiles are a game-changer, retro is popular (again), and we all want a lighter environmental footprint. Here’s an overview of what’s hot in interior design:

1. Maximalism still going strong. While midcentury modern furniture is here to stay for a while, the maximalist trend of opulent, lush décor featuring layers of sumptuous textures has grown in popularity. Instead of clearing out a lot of your older pieces, the new trend seems to be, if it gives you joy, keep it — only make it bright, to bring happiness in!

Those who prefer minimalism can keep their pared-down décor, but have fun incorporating a bit of maximalism with a single grouping of small items on a mantel or side table, or a short wall devoted to an eclectic art collection.

2. High-performance fabrics changed everything. Manufacturers are creating upholstery and other fabrics that look like velvet and linen but can withstand a lot of wear and tear. So you can have a white sofa, for example, without worrying about how it will hold up. The variety is amazing — even faux-distressed fabrics — and you can layer them for that maximalist look. Unlike older manufactured fabric, these are soft and comfortable.

3. The 70s are back! Designers are having fun with 1970s colors and patterns. Current design is using a lot of retro earth tones, especially browns and golds, paired with deep blue, and geometric and basketweave patterns.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. A lighter environmental footprint is important to people today, so it’s “in” to use recycled and repurposed furniture. Rather than buying replacement furniture, hold onto pieces that are meaningful to you. You can use them as accents to your new decor. Think beyond painting — you can reupholster chairs or sofas, change out chair or table legs, and update hardware on drawers.

While these trends are fun and offer diverse options, keep in mind you are not obligated to follow any of them. Your home should be a reflection of who you are and what makes you happy.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Aging Well: The power of hope

Having a hopeful disposition brings various health benefits, including a greater likelihood of living a healthy lifestyle, according to recent research by Mather Institute.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Do you generally have an optimistic view of the future? If so, you may be reaping some hidden benefits. And if not, you still have reason to… well, hope.

“Hope is a powerful state of mind. For example, it’s been linked to better social well-being outcomes, such as life satisfaction, sense of purpose, and quality of life,” says Cate O’Brien, PhD, AVP of Mather Institute. The Institute is the research area of Mather, the organization that’s bringing The Mather, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, to Tysons in early 2024. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living, and successful aging service innovations.

“Our researchers partnered with Washington University in St. Louis on a study of hope and healthy behaviors,” says Dr. O’Brien. “We found that people with a hopeful disposition are more likely to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors and feel positive about the future.” Therefore, by promoting a hopeful outlook, you can actually impact multiple areas of your health.

The good news is that even if you’re not a natural optimist, it’s possible to improve that mindset. Mather Institute researchers combed through previous studies on the subject, and came up with 10 tips that have been proven to help people foster a sense of hope and stay motivated.

  1. Set goals for yourself. Goals could be short-term (e.g., aiming to walk for 20 minutes every day) or long-term (e.g., learning a foreign language).
  2. Start slow. Make sure that the goals you set are attainable (e.g., eating a healthy diet or getting enough sleep).
  3. Break up goals into smaller goals to make them more manageable. For example, if your goal is to walk for 45 minutes every day, start with a 30-minute walk, three times a week and build your endurance.
  4. Keep realistic expectations about your goals and be creative. If bad weather interferes with your weekly lunch with a friend, enjoy a “virtual” lunch together over a video call.
  5. Develop a purpose in life. You can volunteer at your local food pantry, participate in a fundraiser, tutor school-aged children, or collect or distribute items of clothing.
  6. Nurture your hobbies. Pursue your passion, be it gardening, baking, writing, traveling, or scrapbooking.
  7. Challenge yourself. Complete a crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
  8. Try new things. Learn new skills such as playing a musical instrument or try out a new restaurant every month.
  9. Engage in social activities. Try to socialize regularly with friends and family. You can also join a book club or gardening club, video chat with grandchildren, or find a walking partner.
  10. Practice reflection. Meditating every day or maintaining a daily gratitude journal are some great ways to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, appreciate life, and think positively about the future.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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Susan Fine, enjoying a second career as an artist, is among those who benefit from exploring their creativity

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Research has shown that older adults who engage with the arts in a group setting — anything from dancing to a poetry group to singing in a choir — enjoy tangible benefits in multiple areas of health. This has to do with feelings of mastery, and with social connection.

“This research, combined with Dr. Gene Cohen’s description of life after 50 as a time of potential and inner growth known as the Creative Age, forms a foundation for using creativity to support personal wellness,” says Caroline Edasis, AVP of resident engagement for Mather. Mather is the organization that’s bringing The Mather, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, to Tysons in early 2024.

Susan Fine (pictured above) agrees. An artist with a studio and gallery in Washington, D.C., she plans to move to The Mather. She explains that, after a successful career in health care, “I went to Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Art Houston when I was 60. And I so enjoyed the experience! You can be more creative the older you get — child-rearing responsibilities and traditional work may recede, and you open up to other things. There are so many directions you can go in art; I focus on painting and mixed media.”

Midge Scelzo, who is also planning to move to The Mather, has a similar story: “I worked in banking for 25 years, then as CFO for tech startups. In 2009, we moved to Florida and I started a new CFO job… but I realized I wanted to get back to art. I wanted to challenge myself.” She joined a group of artists and started painting. “I’m loving it. It uses a different part of my brain. I’m still that finance person — detail-oriented and organized — but art relaxes me, and I can tune out the world.”

Creativity as Wellness

Mather encourages residents in their existing communities — not just those who are established artists — to try creating new art forms in Open Art Studios. These studios, which position arts engagement as a vehicle for wellness, not just recreation, inviting both lifelong and new artists to explore their own Creative Age in a welcoming group setting.

“While working in diverse media including ceramics and mixed media/painting, participants often realize alongside their peers that they have an untapped expressive ability, a new love for a specific media, or a personal project to pursue,” says Caroline. “One of our master’s-level facilitators, trained in art and psychology, is present to support each individual’s creative journey, and that person helps transform the group into an uplifting community in which residents learn more about each other and themselves.”

Inquiry-Based Art Viewing

Mather also has a signature approach to art appreciation — one that mirrors how contemporary museum practices are evolving. Rather than teaching or encouraging art appreciation with lectures from an expert such as a docent, they focus on inclusive, inquiry-based art-viewing techniques.

“Did you know that the average person spends 17 seconds looking at a work of art in a museum?” asks Caroline. “In our visual literacy programs, we often spend a full hour describing an image, sharing stories conjured by the work of art, or even creating group poems in response to the work. These techniques focus on the interests, experiences, and curiosity of viewers to deliver intellectually stimulating content while challenging us to bring culture down from the pedestal and into our lives.”

“This method is a great way to improve people’s cognition, and their interest and engagement with life,” says Eileen Mandell, who is planning a move to The Mather next year. Eileen, who is currently the community relations director at 1st Stage theater in Tysons, has been immersed in the world of theater as well as studied and practiced various art media. “I’m looking forward the creative arts programming that The Mather will offer,” she says. “I’m a creative person in general, and I want to act as an art maven there.”

The Mather has already formed relationships with local arts organizations, and plans to offer inquiry-based art experiences for residents on-site in museums, theaters, galleries, and more.

Mather recognizes that creativity is about much more than visual art. They encourage everyone to recognize aging as a time of great creative potential, whether through music, poetry, storytelling, dance and movement, or even gardening — the sky is truly the limit.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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