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Home funerals and creativity to engage aging brains, new ideas when thinking about growing older
Shaking up perspectives on how we think about funerals and ways to keep older relatives' minds active and engaged.

What would you say about holding a funeral in your home? And how much does creativity keep an aging person young? These are some of the ideas Syracuse Psychotherapist Nicole Christina has covered. WAER’s Chris Bolt discusses a couple of unique perspectives on aging-gracefully from guests on her podcast Zestful Aging.

Dominick Campbell is co-founder of Creative Aging International. An artist himself, he uses art and creativity to involve older people in festivals and in making things to engage their brain. Christina says it can help them see their self worth and make them feel better about themselves.

“You get great pleasure in making something,” says Campbell.  “Just making something is a pleasurable thing in itself. And then the second pleasure is that you give it to someone else, and that's a pleasure in itself. And the third pleasure is that the joy that they get in receiving it, and that's their gift back to you. That cycle of pleasure and gifting is such a lovely thing. And you know, quite often as you get older, people say, Well, you know, I'm tired because I just feel I'm invisible and creating something and putting it into that gift cycle is a way of becoming visible again.”

Campbell has also been involved in research into how the brain functions. He has noticed that art can be pathway to engaging the brain, for example, talking about a movie or artwork, which can lead to conversations about serious topics, even dying. He suggests taking that a step further, actually creating something and sharing it, can have positive effects on someone experiencing dementia related to aging.

You know, we're creating things for the people, so that could be baking a cake or making a meal, or it could be redecorating a house or painting a mural or making a frock or making a big exhibition. Or it's made for people,” Campbell says.  “You know, if you think about my mom and (she) settled down when she's knitting, when her hands are doing something, her brain settles down. I know from the neuroscience work I do. Your brain is connected to your body. I check they're not much good on their own.”

He adds if a person can ‘fall in love with their polder self” it can not only help with self-worth, but help that person create the world they want their children to live in.

(Hear more from Dominick Campbell on Zestful Aging here)

Olivia Bareham is out to change the way people look at funerals - and the funeral industry. She found a different way to experience the end of a loved one’s life when her mother died. Someone helped her hold a home funeral, which included holding her recently-passed mother in her arms.

“…just like she held you when you were born, and I had this visceral experience when I was cradling her, her body in my arms of the circle of life and the profundity really of Wow, this is how it's supposed to be. It's the most natural, organic, blissful thing, really,” said Bareham.

Bareham founded Sacred Crossings, which not only helps people with home funerals, it also claims to keep harmful chemicals out of the environment by avoiding the typical funeral home process that includes embalming. She has gone onto train people in being ‘death doulas’ or ‘death midwives’ to make the process more of a celebration and less jarring.

Most people, they die at home anyway on hospice, and instead of calling the funeral home, I go into the home and I guide and support the family in this bathing the body, preparing it, shrouding it, anointing it, doing sacred rituals, pull a chair up close so that anyone who comes to visit can be present with the body, which looks beautiful. By the way, it doesn't decompose or deteriorate in any way,” Campbell said.

She adds the family can get involved making artwork, discussing the person’s life and wishes. Bareham believes many people don’t even know a home funeral is an option.

(Hear more from Olivia Bareham here)

Syracuse Psychotherapist Nicole Christina interviews guests with unique perspectives about senior years on her podcast Zestful Aging.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.