Defying age, one ‘yes’ at a time

Seniors are coached on boosting their creativity


According to former advertising executive David Wiseltier, “The word ‘yes’ is the key to creativity.” He shared that piece of advice at the Glen Cove Senior Center on Dec. 17 during a program that offered small ways to improve memory.

He added that the suggestion wasn’t limited to those who consider themselves creative, be-cause everyone is creative. “Every time we say yes to new things, we strengthen our creative pathways,” Wiseltier said. “When you say no, it’s a senior citizen alert.”

Sally DiMiceli, of Glen Head, was a bit doubtful. “I’m a creature of habit and not creative,” she insisted, adding that she was still interested in hearing what Wiseltier had to say.

Some of his advice, like taking up a new hobby, was probably something the seniors had heard before, but the suggestion to learn to play a new instrument? That was so surprising that a few members of his audience laughed.

Wiseltier, a retired advertising creative director, has been bringing the program, “Creage-tivity,” to senior centers across Nassau County. Although it is geared to older people, he claims it can benefit everyone. The idea, he said, is to retrain your mind to accept new ideas and try new activities.

“To be a creative person, you have to be willing to express feelings and emotions,” he said. “Even people who consider themselves to be creative can lose their creativity if they fall into ‘senior syndrome.’ That’s when we become conservative and lose the individuality of our youth.”

He shared prints of Cubist work by Pablo Picasso as well as Andy Warhol’s pop art, and asked the seniors to help him to find their meaning. He said he had been successful in “belief busting,” a way to force oneself to see beyond the obvious. “I look for faces in the world around me,” he said, “like on leaves, the outlet on the wall or the front of a car.”

And what is most important, he said, is to step out of your comfort zone by challenging your senses. When Wiseltier asked who liked sushi, no one raised a hand. He encouraged the seniors to try it, adding that if that seems like too much of a challenge, they should try a different flavor of ice cream. “Don’t be a prisoner of your comfort zone,” he said with a smile. “We become more set in our ways as we get older, and some of the reason is fear.”

He had other suggestions, too, which he described as “creativity busting.” They included choosing an unfamiliar style of music to experience, turning the TV on without the sound and putting music on instead, and closing one’s eyes and focusing on a smell.

“Challenge your routine,” Wiseltier suggested. “Go a different route, even if it takes longer. Don’t sit in the same place. Moving elsewhere will give you a different visual experience.”

Mimi Simonetti, of Glen Head, said she found the presentation valuable. “This wakes your brain up,” she said. “We try to keep ourselves busy, and I’m going to try to follow what he has said today.”