This episode of The Mindfully Creative Podcast spotlights creativity and the aging process with guest, Wendy L. Miller, Ph.D., co-author of the book, Sky Above Clouds: Finding Our Way Through Creativity, Aging and Illness (Oxford University Press, 2016). In this interview, we talk about key concepts from the book and specifically how creativity can benefit all of us as we age.
About the Book:
Through their scientific research, clinical practice, and a remarkable life together, husband and wife team Gene Cohen and Wendy Miller uncover new clues about how the aging mind can expand awareness, build resilience, and continue growth, even during times of grave illness, upending long-held assumptions about the aging brain. Cohen, considered one of the founding fathers of geriatric psychiatry, shares from decades of research and personal journals detailing his exploration of the aging brain and the vast potential that is often overlooked. Miller, an expressive arts therapist and educator, highlights stories of creative growth in the midst of illness and loss encountered through her personal life and her clinical practice. Together, Cohen and Miller show how resources that naturally reside within us remain our most valuable tools as we navigate the uncharted territory of aging and illness.
Sky Above Clouds traces the path that Cohen and Miller traveled together as the foremost expert on creativity and aging confronted his own aging process and a metastatic disease that threatened to cut his life short. Cohen’s distinguished work led to breakthroughs in science and society as, for more than a decade, despite his illness, he continued to pioneer geriatric research and advance the public conversation about aging well.
Sky Above Clouds draws deeply from the couple’s merged wisdom and new lessons learned in a struggle through illness and loss within their extended family, eventually including Cohen’s own untimely death. The book blends both authors’ perspectives and voices, incorporating journal entries they wrote together in the years before Cohen’s death.
What happens when the expert on aging is confronted with his own in the context of a grave illness? What happens when the therapist who helps others cope with illness and loss is forced to confront her own responses to these experiences? With Miller’s insights and expressive psychological writing, Sky Above Clouds shows how attitude, community, creativity, and love shape a life through health, illness, and even death. The result is a richly informative and emotional journey of growth.
-Source: Oxford University Press
About Wendy L. Miller, Ph.D.
Wendy Miller, Ph.D. ATR-BC, LCPAT, REAT, LPC, BCPC is an expressive arts therapist, writer, sculptor, and educator. She taught for over fifteen years in various universities throughout the country, including JFK University, San Francisco State University, Southwestern College, Lesley College, California Institute of Integral Studies, and The George Washington University. She is the co-founder of Create Therapy Institute, which offers clinical services in arts-based psychotherapy and trainings in the expressive arts. She is a founding member, and first elected (past) executive co-chair of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, where she continues to be on their Advisory Council. Her current work is evolving as she continues the legacy of her late husband’s work, pioneer of creative aging, Gene Cohen, and his Washington DC Center on Aging, where she is guiding it into projects on intergenerational communication. She continues to research the relationships among the arts, creativity and health, and recently published her book from the writings she and Gene did together, entitled: Sky Above Clouds: Finding our way through creativity, aging and illness, released in March 2016 from Oxford University Press.
During this episode we discuss:
How did the idea of Sky Above Clouds come about?
As the Baby Boomer Generation ages, how are they engaging in more creative pursuits than other generations?
What are, if any correlation between wellness and creativity for older adults?
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Listen to Episode 10 below: