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Older Adults Find Their Hidden Artists

Retirement is the perfect time to spread your wings and fly! A professional artist and art 'coach' will help you discover your latent artistic ability at an upcoming luncheon and workshop.

Putting your right brain to work brings balance, clear thinking and stress relief, according to local artist Kathy Strauss. After years as a photographer and marketing professional, lately she is turning to art coaching as a way to bring young and old alike into a fondness for the creative side of life.

On Friday, Nov. 30, 12:15 to 2:30 p.m, Northern Virginia adults over the age of 65 are invited for a complimentary luncheon followed by the “Finding Your Artist Within” class by Kathy Strauss, Chief Creative Officer at ImageWerks and Artist at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

Kathy Strauss is certified as a Creatively FitTM Coach. Her mentor, Whitney Ferré, developed this program and authored a book on the subject, The Artist Within, A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit.

In her class, Strauss will share the notion that good health involves being creatively fit. "The brain is a muscle, with two sides that work together, and most adults have exercised the left brain to the detriment of the right. By exercising the right brain, you will improve functional capacity of the left brain.  By bringing your brain into balance, you are now engaging your whole brain in thinking. This will result in better logic, better decision making, and even stress reduction."

Older adults tend to worry or may have experienced loss or trauma. Worry, according to Strauss, comes from the left brain. "By triggering the right brain, you can cut down the chatter on the left. The right brain is where  your intuition resides.

The Director of Nursing at Westminster, Susan Hadeka, says that keeping seniors engaged in activities such as art, storytelling, looking at photographs and recalling memories is a new standard of care.

"Our nursing assistants now practice 'activities based care', which we find is a great way to prevent falls, loneliness and anxiety," says Ms. Hadeka.

Two residents of Westminster at Lake Ridge, can attest to the many benefits of employing their creative talents.

Westminster resident, Rose Sanders, is a former school teacher who began painting in 2007. She is wheelchair bound, as a result of Multiple Sclerosis. Rose's mother-in-law was a talented artist, and her late husband dabbled in watercolors. After her M.S. diagnosis, Rose thought and prayed about what she could do to live a fulfilling life. She started painting with acrylics, at first, then she moved to oil paints. She enjoys painting landscapes and even paints furniture, lamps and other Westminster thrift store finds.

Another artist, Patricia Leopold lives in a corner cottage in the Westminster Community. She and her husband added a sunroom to their cottage. The southern exposure, 4 skylights and 12 windows gives her all the sun and light she needs for an ideal art studio. Her view of the woods, flora and fauna supplies ample subject matter, too. Pat started dabbling in art in kindergarten. She majored in art in college at Mount Holyoke College but didn't take it up seriously until she retired from the CIA.

Patricia signs her artwork Pat Olson, and has sold well over 100 pieces of her artwork. Deep in her heart she is a sculptress but finds it is more practical to do watercolor, even though it is a more difficult medium than acrylics or oils. Her paintings of animals, landscapes, and still life, are on display at Westminster, in the administrative office hallway. Her artwork also cheers up residents during visits to the rehabilitation center.

Patricia believes art is a great way to stay active, "Your heart, head, eyes, hands, even your soul, everything, gets involved in creating a painting!"

The luncheon and "Finding Your Artist Within" workshop event is free for those Northern Virginia residents over the age of 65. Please register by contacting Clint Weigl 703-496-3440.

Westminster at Lake Ridge is a Continuing Care Retirement Community located next to the historic, riverside Town of Occoquan, Virginia just across the river from Fairfax County and 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. Residents enjoy wellness and lifelong learning opportunities, the choice of maintenance-free cottage or apartment living, housekeeping, dining, parking, transportation and on-site amenities all in a beautiful, wooded campus environment featuring two ponds, gardens and trails to the Occoquan River. Visit our website: http://wlrva.org/

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Alice LaBier November 21, 2012 at 02:16 PM
What a wonderful article on the upcoming Kathy Strauss "Finding your Artist Within" class. Reading Pat Leopold's interview was very interesting. Those of us who know Pat, a long time member of the Prince William Art Societylocated in Lake Ridge, have always admired the work she does. Pat is not only a very talented artist, but a very kind gentle woman, who we all respect.
kathy strauss November 26, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I look forward to sharing and teaching this session, finding "your artist within" is so important and alot of fun! I'm also looking forward to meeting the other artists mentioned in the article. If you have any questions or want to get in touch with me, please send me an email to kathy "at" imagewrks "dot" net

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