Creative Aging Conference aims to aid attendees in leaving lasting legacies

Longevity seen as opportunity to contribute to future generations

Posted 2/26/20

As the Baby Boomer generation heads into its twilight years, there’s been no shortage of community conversations about how to cope with the realities of aging. But what sets Centrum’s …

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Creative Aging Conference aims to aid attendees in leaving lasting legacies

Longevity seen as opportunity to contribute to future generations

Posted

As the Baby Boomer generation heads into its twilight years, there’s been no shortage of community conversations about how to cope with the realities of aging. But what sets Centrum’s Creative Aging Conference apart from a number of such public programs is its concern with the generations that will continue on after their elders have passed.

Mary Jane Knecht, manager of Creative Aging programs at the Frye Art Museum, said the Creative Aging Conference’s “Perspectives on Legacy” is intended to yield insights for every age, not just older adults, so they can ponder what sort of legacy they’d like to leave behind over the long term.

“It’s an interactive conference that’s meant to furnish attendees with the tools, resources and inspiration to review their own legacies throughout the course of their lives, since our values and beliefs can change during our lives,” Knecht said.

The one-day “Perspectives on Legacy” conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at the Fort Worden Commons, but it’s far from the first of the Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging programs to be offered in Port Townsend.

Robert Birman, executive director of Centrum, noted the Frye Art Museum has partnered with the Rose Theatre for the past two years to present “Meet Me at the Movies” for adults living with dementia and their care partners.

Based on the success of that program, Birman asked Knecht if there was some way the Frye Art Museum could bring its Creative Aging Programs to Centrum.

“Perspectives on Legacy” is intended for social and healthcare professionals, artists, educators and lifelong learners to explore the topic of legacy from the perspective of making a positive difference in an imperfect world.

“Culturally, we’re more aware of the possibilities of aging, as well as ways of staying engaged, whether through the arts, physical activity or community involvement,” Knecht said. “As we’ve begun living longer, we’ve come to recognize the potential that we possess throughout our lives, at every stage.”

Knecht said this means learning to live with degenerative cognitive diseases for which there is no cure, such as Alzheimer’s, because the impacts of those conditions can still be mitigated through measures such as exercise, a healthy diet and social interaction.

“By treating dementia as part of aging, rather than something separate, or a fatal disease, we can potentially steady the decline,” Knecht said.

Birman explained the conference will bring together speakers from multiple disciplines and life experiences, covering not only such adjustments in attitude, but also inspiring participants to consider what legacy means to them and how they can meaningfully shape the world they’ll leave to future generations.

“Whether you have 30 years or 30 days left, we want you to consider some simple ways you can make the most out of every day, for yourself and for future generations,” Birman said.

“Greta Thunberg and other members of the younger generations have really challenged us to be more responsible,” Knecht said, citing the teenage Swedish climate change activist.

Eddie Gonzalez, associate director of civil conversations and social healing for the “On Being” project, will deliver the keynote address, “Legacy and the Art of Remembering Forward,” while Sonnet Kekilia Coggins, executive director of the Merwin Conservancy, will speak on “An Imagination Fully Inhabited: The Living Legacy of W.S. Merwin.”

Knecht pointed out that Merwin left behind dual legacies as a prolific and critically acclaimed poet and an activist for the restoration of Hawaii’s rainforests, the latter of which he helped support by co-founding the Merwin Conservancy in 2010 with his wife, nine years before he died.

“He established lasting legacies of both personal accomplishment and benefitting the world as a whole,” Knecht said. “When we talk about legacies, we’re not referring to estate planning, but to concepts such as ethical wills, passing down our values, beliefs and stories to the next generations.”

Tom Ikeda, founding executive director of Densho, will talk about “Keeping Alive the Stories of a Community,” and the subject of “Leaving a Trace: Our Legacy Stories” will be discussed by palliative care social worker Carol Kummet and palliative care physician Dr. Katie Schlenker of the UW Medical Center.

Knecht recounted how Ikeda interviewed Japanese-Americans about their internment during World War II, not only to honor their generation for enduring and overcoming such experiences, but also to draw parallels between their historic struggles and “the injustices perpetrated against immigrants today.”

And Pam McClusky, curator of African and oceanic art for the Seattle Art Museum, will ask attendees to “Imagine NUTOPIA.”

A limited number of scholarships are available at a reduced rate. Contact Centrum for application instructions or other information at 360-385-3102, ext.117.

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