In this month’s AUTUMN VIEW, various writers say what gifts old age has brought them. For me, one of the greatest gifts has been noticing so much more and really seeing things because I now walk much slower than I used to. This has been reflected in the photographs I take. It’s an upward spiral. I notice more because I have slowed down, which encourages me to photograph what I see; and in looking for good shots and focusing on what I am photographing, I notice so much more. Unless otherwise credited, practically all the photos in this blog have been taken by me since passing the age of seventy, although, clearly, I didn’t take the photos of myself. Most of these have been taken either by my wife, Sallie, or by my friend, Archie Sinclair.The well-known documentary and landscape photographer, Don McCullin , recently said, ‘I am on the last stages of my life, and I want to leave behind something beautiful.’ I identify with that, as will a lot of other crumblies.

Feedback
I am delighted that a number of people have completed the questionnaire or provided comments. Particularly pleasing was author Suzanne Egerton’s comment about the questionnaire: ‘Probing and interesting. I found answering a good exercise in itself.’
Please keep sending in your comments and completed questionnaires. What you think is of value to us and to others.

The Autumn Voices Over 60s writing competition
The competition is now closed. There were 40 entries. I look forward to reading these these during July and August. The winners will be announced in September.

Useful websites, blogs and books related to creativity and ageing
From time to time I shall mention websites, blogs and books related to creativity and ageing which I have found interesting and helpful. There is an excellent blog produced by Age of Creativity (www.ageofcreativity.co.uk) whose by-line or motto is ‘Inspiring Arts in Old Age.’ Age of Creativity is for practitioners, facilitators, artists and organisations across the UK, working in the field of arts and older people. A recent blog on their site that caught my interest was ‘Stories of Wellbeing in Later Life’ by Fiona Hamilton, who works for the Orchard Foundation (www.orchardfoundation.co.uk/), which promotes creative writing and the arts in health. Here (with her kind permission) is an extract from her article:
‘The arts in healthcare can have many benefits, such as increasing confidence, and the sheer pleasure of creating something that is shared with others. Other research suggests that when people are able to write out their concerns as well as celebrate what they value, health and wellbeing, psychologically and socially – and sometimes physically – can increase. To quote a pioneer researcher into the benefits of expressive writing, US-based psychologist James Pennebaker:

‘the essence of the writing technique is that it forces people to stop what they are doing and briefly and reflect on their lives. It is one of the few times that people are given permission to see where they have been and where they are going without having to please anyone. They are able to prioritise their goals, find meaning in their past and future, and think about who they are at this point in life’ (Pennebaker, J.  in ‘The Writing Cure’ edited by Lepore S J and Smyth J M, 2002)’

A book which has been enormously helpful to me in my thinking about the Autumn Voices project is The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life (Avon Books, 2000) by Gene D. Cohen, former Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University. Although first published seventeen years ago, it has hardly dated and is packed with insights into the nature of creativity in later life. One reviewer, Betty Friedan, has this to say about Cohen’s book:
‘To deal with aging in terms of creativity is a real breakthrough. So much research has been done on decline and terminal illness and all the negative aspects of aging, and so little is known about what really happens with the process in healthy people. To seriously study and think about creativity in aging will not only transcend the previous limitations of the view of aging, but give us new insights into the evolution of creativity.’
Yes, I would agree with that and my hope is that the Autumn Voices project will add to these insights.