There is a shifting social construction of aging prompted by new studies (Cohen, 2005;
Small & Vorgan 2008) on creativity and brain malleability along with demographic and
economic changes (Newman, 2011). The move away from stereotypical age segregation
toward greater coexistence is examined in The New Aging: Self Construction and Social
As life-span doyen, Bernice Neugarten (1980), proposed almost 20 years ago, we
are slowly becoming an age-irrelevant society, in the sense that we are ‘becoming
accustomed to the 28 year old mayor. . .the 50 year old retiree, the 65 year old father
of a preschooler and the 70 year old student. (Gergen, K. & Gergen, M, 2000)
Although age acceptance is widening, the participants in this project are nonetheless in a
media culture that reinforces the notion that edginess, risk taking, and creativity belongs to
the young. However, a common thread for many of these participants is their ability to
sense trends and to be ahead of the curve. All of these media creators, forging an
improvisational path of creative invention or reinvention, are busy developing “what’s next”
(e.g. Kasumi, a recent Guggenheim recipient, working on an edgy feature-length
experimental video; Marc Jaffe inventing Elijah Drinks or co-creating a Parkinson’s research
foundation Shaking With Laughter; Bill Cavanaugh one of the early designers of a portable
32-track recording system; or Steven Tatar branding Ohio Knitting Mills and attempting to
start production in the United States for his fabulous collection of 1940s 1970s knitwear.
Read individual Appreciative Reflections for all aforementioned participants.
By the year 2015, “more than half of all people 65-69 are expected to be in the labor force”
(Newman, K., 2011, p. 136). As we continue to primarily focus on aging as a “deficit
discourse” (Gergen, 1994), which entails viewing aging through a lens of something to be
fixed or taken care of, then we are short-changing people of all ages who eventually will
also move closer to the reality of mortality. We are living in a swirling change of shifting
beliefs about work, relationships, loyalty, and even retirement.
Viewing Creativity and Aging Through Another Lens
Gene D. Cohen, author and pioneering researcher in the area of geriatric psychiatry who
also served as founding director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George
Washington University, shifted the developmental focus on aging from a problem discourse
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