If we define creativity as "bringing something new into being" then encouraging people to move beyond their present understanding of themselves by thinking again and consequently thinking differently about their past, can help them to think differently about their present. Reviewing our life experiences from the perspective of an older version of ourselves can help us to understand ourselves better. "The more we understand the journey to the present, the more likely we are to be able to live with the present." (1)
The concept of "life review" was first proposed by the late Professor Robert Butler, founder and first Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre. Dr Butler was a psychiatrist and gerontologist. In the course of his work with older people he came to believe that in their later years it was a normal task of a healthy person to review life's events. In doing so they were able to view the past from the perspective of someone older and wiser and, perhaps, more forgiving.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Butler in 2007 while I was in the US on a Churchill Fellowship. Dr Butler developed the concept of life review in the early 1960's but since then it has become a mainstream therapy intended to help people review their life story in their later years in order to gain a meaningful perspective on how their life has played out and of the person they have become.
In researching this article i came across the University of Missouri-St Louis Life Review Project which offers a graduate course combining life review interviewing with video editing and production skills. The students are assigned to interview older adult volunteers who are encouraged to tell their life stories on camera. The students then edit these stories into keepsake DVD's that are presented to each volunteer.
The interviews in the Life Review Project are much more than mere listings of events. The volunteers are asked about life's ups and downs, important mentors and life lessons. They are asked to reflect on what they believe they have learned, how their values have influenced the decisions they made and what wisdom they feel they can pass down to the next generation. In all of this the goal is to build the individual's self-awareness, understanding and acceptance. As such, life review can have an important therapeutic effect in helping individual's come to terms with how their life has turned out.
Making your own life review video
The advent of cheap (< £50) video cameras has made it possible to do more than simply write your life story. You can now be as visually creative as you wish. With a simple handheld camera you can record the key events in your life while incorporating location shots showing where they actually happened. You can feature your childhood home, the schools you attended and where you grew up.
Don't forget your working identity - shots of the various locations where you worked, perhaps an interview or two with former colleagues. The only limit is your imagination. It is probably a good idea to sit down before hand and sketch out a plan for how your video will be constructed. One of the great things about modern video editing software is that there is no need to record the shots in any particular order. You can identify a number of locations to visit and then sort the shots out later.
The final stage in creating your own video record of your life is to provide your own narration. All you need is a microphone you can plug into you computer and then you can add the "voiceover" to accompany each shot that will make your completed video a truly personal record. You can, if you wish add music or sound effects. Again you don't have to do it all at once. A perfect project perhaps for the long winter nights! Reminiscence and Life Story Work, Faith Gibson, 2011
Featured Activity - Retirement at the Movies
Like me you may be able to remember what life was like before TV. Our family treat was the weekly visit to the local cinema. Nowadays the films on offer seem to be aimed at 12 year olds with superheroes and lots of explosions. If you want to watch something with more of a story and characters you can believe in, you will probably have to visit your local "art house cinema", that is if you are lucky enough to find one near where you live. An alternative is to start a cinema of your own, where you and your friends can choose what you want to see and when you want to see it. Sounds like an impossible dream? Actually it is surprising just how many private cinema clubs there are, all over the country.
You can start a film club anywhere - in a school hall, a pub or at home. A great resource for getting started is Cinema For All (run by the British Federation of Film Societies). It can tell you where to borrow equipment and put you in touch with a huge network of film societies that you can ask for advice. Cinema For All can help you navigate the knotty waters of licensing. Licences are expensive and you might need to buy one, but there can be ways to screen films without having one, just do your research properly. Most community cinemas make a small charge, say £5 to watch a film and that can be used to cover the licence fee.
There is quite a bit of work running a private cinema and It definitely helps to have a team to support you, so think about starting a club with friends so you can split the workload between you. Examples of the sort of chores you need to consider include administration, advertising (often these days on the internet) and finding suitable venues for the screenings. Think community hall, school gymnasium etc.
After you've picked your film and venue, you need to make sure people turn up. You can use Facebook, Twitter, etc or better still, have your own website. Sometimes the most effective publicity is simply word of mouth. It can be a good idea to link your screening to a fundraiser for a well known charity. You can go a bit mad if you like and invite your audience to dress up in period costume or as Dracula or the Wolfman!
To give you an idea of the kind of thing you can get up to, here is a short video clip from The Magic Lantern Film Club, who are based in Sheffield.
Ever one for an immersive cultural experience, Michael has been to see Barry Douglas (Winner of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition) perform with traditional musicians who play a range of celtic music. To learn what he made of it all click here
Humanist psychologist Abram Maslow said "Creativity is a universal characteristic of people... there is no exception. The key question isn't "What fosters creativity?" But it is "Why in God's name isn't everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled?" In this month's article Jeanette provides some guidelines for restoring your creative impulses. To read her suggestions, click here
Last month we featured Ronnie's article on living to 100. It was fairly upbeat but his April follow-up finds him in more sombre mood. Here he expresses second thoughts on the goal of living to extreme old age. We would be very interested to hear the views of our readers on this subject. Are you optimistic about the future and, if not, what are your concerns? To read Ronnie's essay, click here.
Still Cycling at 104
Michael sent me this link which I have included here in the interests of balanced reporting! Click here.