Arts and aging is neither just about art, nor just about aging.
Rather, it is about creativity and positive engagement-
that is, creativity as both a goal
and a process for shaping the self and society.

          ~ Steven Dahlberg           



Doris McCarthy (1910-2010), Canadian artist known for her landscapes and depictions of Arctic icebergs, recently passed away. In July, she had celebrated her 100th birthday with a major exhibit of her work at the University of Toronto art gallery named after her. She bequeathed her house and property for an artist sanctuary – a move fully in keeping with her lifelong work in teaching art and supporting fellow artists.         

She wrote her autobiography in three volumes, the first about her life until age 40 and the second about life from 40-80.  In her 2004 publication, Ninety Years Wise, Doris McCarthy demonstrates her zest for life and vital aging attitudes by chronicling her 92nd summer painting alone at her northern Ontario cottage.  She discusses the many paintings from that productive season, in addition to visits from friends, her approach to painting, life, and her communities. Her autobiographies have been condensed into a single book,
My Life.   

In My Life, Doris McCarthy reflects upon her personal journey:         

So here I am, content to enjoy every day as it comes,
and wise enough to thank God for his mercies and rejoice in them.
My only regrets are my economies (never my extravagances)
– particularly those of spirit and love.

My Recent Article on Writing as Spiritual Practice      

[Excerpt]  Writing regularly in a journal can help us find our inner voice.  This practice, assisted by asking questions, enhances many spiritual practices: paying attention, seeking truth, showing compassion, saying thanks, cultivating silence, reviewing life, and identifying purpose.  Writing about the highs and lows of our lives – past, present, and possible futures – gives us perspective, offers strategies to solve problems, reveals our feelings and sometimes their sources, and moves us from ‘Why me’ to ‘Why not me’.    

         Read the full one-page article:  Ryan-Writing as Spiritual Practice    

Book Review – by Marianne Vespry

The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life  2000
Author: Gene Cohen     Publisher: New York: HarperCollins 

We are all creative, naturally creative, all our lives.  Creativity is not limited to the ‘big C Creativity’ of the arts, writing, invention, or celebrity pursuits.  Creativity also has a ‘small c’ component that manifests in each of us. Cohen shows through numerous examples of creative lives how aging individuals create their changing identity through four later-life ‘human potential stages’.   

Read the full book review: The Creative Age – Review

 Books of Note – Book Reviews Invited   

Baldwin, C. (2005). Storycatcher: Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. New World Library.
Goldberg, N. (2007). Old Friend from far away : The Practice of Writing Memoir. New York: Free Press.
Ray, R. E. (2000). Beyond Nostalgia: Aging and Life-Story Writing. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia.
Remen, R. N. (2000). My Grandfather’s blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. New York:  Riverhead Books.
Thomas, A. (2008). Thinking about Memoir. New York: AARP/Sterling.       

Web Resources on Benefits of Creativity in Later Life


Arts and Healing Network    
The Society for Art an Healing 
Creativity and Aging    

 Web Articles



It has been a long voyage
Through time, travail and triumph,
Eighty years
Of learning what to be and how to become it.        
         ~ May Sarton    

When a spouse dies, you retire,
or your kids leave home,
you interrupt your personal story.
If you can figure out how this episode
fits into the plot of your life,
you’ll be one step closer
to seeing its purpose — and yours.        
         ~ Gregory A. Plotnikovv         


Nocturne, by Ellen Ryan 
Great Grandmother’s Funeral, by Jay Payne    
First Love, by David C. Berry   
Roll Back the Years,  by Norma West Linder    
Under the Bridge, by Jack Livesley 
Ghosts, by Robert Currie 


Until next time,

    Ellen Ryan