John, president of the Kendal at Oberlin Residents Association (KORA), writes about the creativity and community that are part of living at Kendal at Oberlin. This article is condensed from a story that appeared in the June 2012 issue of The Kendalight.
“Creativity” and “listening” are key elements in our life together here at Kendal. Through its many standing committees, interest groups, support groups and service committees, your KORA Council encourages both.
The “Kendal Creates” exhibit now on display in several of our galleries demonstrates how amazingly imaginative our residents are in painting, woodworking, ceramics, silversmithing, quilting and many other forms of art. The new issue of “Eureka“ shows our range of creativity as writers. The lectures residents have given in recent weeks on neuroscience, philosophy and other topics are just a small sample of the rich intellectual resources in our midst. In his new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” Jonah Lehrer argues that there are two basic elements in the creative process: “The brain, that fleshy source of possibility;” and “people coming together.”
We have exceptional opportunities on site and in close proximity to stimulate our brains. Several of the Kendal communities, including Kendal at Oberlin, have experimented with “brain fitness” programs based on the potential of the brain’s plasticity, even as it ages, to learn and adapt. I tried working with a couple of these programs, but decided that I could exercise my brain in much more interesting ways by auditing Oberlin College courses, keeping up with the reading assignments (a challenge!), and engaging in discussions with the students and faculty, in and outside of class – but not, I confess, by taking exams or writing papers. Music enhances mental processing, and music certainly surrounds us. Indeed we have many of our own music-makers – and I even include our singing Precision Lawn Chair Drill Team. The brain’s fitness is closely correlated with our overall physical fitness. Whether we take part in English Country Dancing, yoga or any of the many other fitness activities organized by residents or offered by staff, including this month’s “Fun Fitness Week,” we help keep “that fleshy source of possibility” in top form. Almost all of these activities involve “people coming together.”
There are many factors in our society encouraging Americans to “age in place” in their own homes, but it seems to me that a continuing care retirement community such as ours guarantees the essential “people coming together” element in creativity. But “people coming together” implies “people listening to each other.” Creativity and listening do go together!