Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

Senior Housing Comes of Age, Encouraging Creativity And Even New Careers

October 25, 2010

It’s one of the more hopeful signs of changing attitudes toward aging that increasingly, senior housing facilities encourage residents like retired dental surgeon Gene Schklair, 80, at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, to expand their lives and pursue new ambitions after retirement rather than whittle them down.

Instead of performing cosmetic surgery, Schklair now sculpts whimsical, life-size figures that sell for $18,000 each.

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The philosophy of the Colony, which targets people 55 and older, is simple, reports Rosemary McLure in the Los Angeles Times: “You’re never too old to become the person you want to be.”

The Colony, which is an outgrowth of a senior education program called Engage: The Art of Active Aging (http://www.engagedaging.org), founded by Tim Carpenter.  The nonprofit organization provides educational programs for thousands of low- and moderate-income seniors living in apartment communities throughout Southern California. (Full disclosure: Two weeks ago, I was a guest on Carpenter’s radio magazine, Experience Talks. See below.)

A sign outside the five-story building reads: “Get Active, Be Creative, Be Inspired.”

Here, there’s truth in that advertising. Each day, residents are involved in a variety of creative opportunities, from working on a play in the Colony’s 45-seat theater to participating in an intergenerational writing wokshop, a tai chi class, or a sculpture seminar.

“This building has been a godsend to so many people,” Schklair says. “People come here and they come alive.”

Charlene McDonald, 71, couldn’t agree more. She had been living alone and found herself involved in “fewer and fewer activities. Then I walked in here and I knew I was home.” She paints, writes short   stories, is working on a memoir, and “I’m writing the Great American Novel,” she says, laughing. “One day I’m going to self-publish it.”

Read the rest of McClure’s story: Burbank Senior Housing Artists Colony
Tim Carpenter’s Experience Talks airs Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. Pacific on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles 98.7 FM Santa Barbara. It streams live and is archived at http://www.kpfk.org.

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