Summit: Creative aging can inspire all generations

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Laverne Begle of Ferdinand talks about a quilt she made and about her love of sewing beside her husband, Hilary, right, and Pat Evans of Santa Claus, left, during the Creative Aging Summit at the Ferdinand Branch Library in Ferdinand on Wednesday. Artists attended the summit to share their story, their art and connect with the community. "There's so much talent here," said attendee Duane Meyer of Portersville. "It's inspiring."


FERDINAND — One unrolled a huge quilt she’d sewn. Another strummed his guitar, wailing a song of love and change in harmony with his wife. Many displayed beautiful drawings and paintings they’d carefully brushed or sketched. Into their harmonicas, two played old tunes that have all but disappeared as new music drowns out the sounds of the past.

The later years of life can be plagued with isolation, hopelessness and boredom. But inside a conference room at the Ferdinand Branch Library, about 20 aging artists from across the region gathered on Wednesday to share how pouring creativity into pastimes has enhanced their lives. They also discussed how sharing the products of their hearts and souls can better the world for all generations.

Wednesday’s event was organized by Ferdinand nonprofit Traditional Arts Today. It was facilitated by members of Traditional Arts Indiana, and it aimed to convene a network of creatives to share their talents and artwork while also assessing how the quality of life for older adults in the area can be increased through the arts.

“If you’re engaged in a creative practice, often, that creative practice has a social component to it,” said Jon Kay, director of Traditional Arts Indiana. “You’re getting together with people. Or, you’re taking your work to show to people. You make something and then you have something to talk to someone about.”

In a presentation, Kay explained that social interaction is just as important as lifestyle choices, like kicking a bad habit or eating a hearty diet. A seemingly healthy person can waste away if their life is reduced to game shows and Candy Crush.

Clyde Melton of Ferdinand and his wife, Joan, sing during the Creative Aging Summit at the Ferdinand Branch Library in Ferdinand on Wednesday. The couple sang about climbing the second mountain in life.

“Being socially engaged with people around you is as important as giving up those cigarettes, losing a few pounds or giving up alcohol,” he explained.

Hilary and Laverne Begle of Ferdinand attended the local summit because they were interested in learning about their peers’ creative outlets. Hilary has played harmonica for nearly 70 years and Laverne has sewn since she was a child. They also play music together, and they feel connected to both their pasts and the present through their artistic hobbies.

“I think it’s good to have this tradition, and [to] teach your grandchildren to do things like this,” Laverne said of her sewing. She smiled when thinking about how she successfully passed on part of herself to her own granddaughter.

Clyde Melton and his wife, Joan, sung an acoustic cover of the Kate Wolf song “Across the Great Divide” at the gathering. Joan is an avid storyteller, and she meshes her skills with her husband’s six-string expertise to create powerful messages. The Celestine couple found friends in local music circles when they first moved to the community more than two decades ago.

“I think that when you’re around other people, you gain so much from sharing your stories,” Joan said. “Whether it’s in art or music, or a form of writing your life’s history.”

At the end of the assembly, attendees discussed how they could bring their crafts to young people to keep them alive as time pushes forward. Kay stressed that the area doesn’t necessarily need out-of-towners to come in to exemplify great art. So many here already possess exceptional gifts.

“What we’re trying to do is get people to recognize you have great stuff right here,” Kay said. “How can you celebrate that sense of place and sense of community? And foster that for older adults, which ultimately ends up cultivating that next generation of people. It’s all part of that cycle.”

Vita Bartley of Ferdinand, a church organist, plays the keyboard at the Creative Aging Summit at the Ferdinand Branch Library in Ferdinand on Wednesday. Bartley says it's her "greatest joy" to play the organ in church.

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