On Creativity and Aging with the ‘Renaissance Man’ Christopher Lowell
Many of us have watched television personality and interior decorator Christopher Lowell transform drab rooms into lively spaces that we all envy. He is a trailblazer of the how-to décor and lifestyle format, which began in the late 90s. He proved to TV networks that the genre, combined with inspiration, sketch-comedy and story arcs, was viable on a commercial level.
On May 10th, Christopher will be visiting Michiana as the keynote speaker for the 16th Annual Age of Excellence awards, an event from by REAL Services, Inc./Area 2 Agency. He was kind enough to sit down for an interview where we discussed everything from design to caregiving.
Q: How can someone spruce up a homebound person’s home and bring life into a fixed-income household?
CL: It is not that much different than what most people should do with their homes. We ask them to really take a look at how they’re living in their home right now, and then make some decisions about how they would like to live in their home. Throw away any conventions. Don’t create a home you think your neighbors are going to love – they don’t have your issues; they aren’t going to be in that house; it is really your home. Throw out all traditions.
Seven out of 10 American homes are drowning in clutter. If you haven’t used it in a year, you are not going to use it. Pay it forward. Give those things to a young couple who are having their first party. Do not decorate with your ego; decorate with your heart and with your mind.
Q: Have you seen any trends in how older adults prioritize their decorating to meet the challenges of staying at home?
CL: Do not replicate the life you thought you had in miniature – take a look at the life you will have for the next 10 years. What you are doing is getting rid of the life you thought you had to make room for the life you didn’t think you’d get.
Q: Where do you see the correlation between one’s health and one’s living space?
CL: Talent is reserved for the top 1% of people. People come with that software loaded already, and it’s not necessarily available to all of us. Personal creativity is. It is like breathing – part of our mechanism. When we came on national television, our goal was to raise self-esteem – get people to think about small changes that could impact their house. The mental interior and the physical interior always match. When you change one, the other changes, too.
Q: Can you talk about any experience you have had caregiving for your parents or older family members?
CL: We have a long history of caregiving in our family in a lot of very creative ways…My mom was diagnosed with cancer, and she was really amazing at inviting her kids to share in her dying process. She talked about how she was feeling. She talked about how faith and empathy were the things that she clung to. She talked about [us] volunteering and about how the ritual of volunteering would change our lives, and that’s where we got the spiritual peace that we now seek in our lives.
Q: Were there any useful services or anything you wished that was out there to help your mom through that process?
CL: One of the things that I have found is that human touch and human empathy actually heals more than anything. Sometimes our job is to just make sure that as people transition out of this world they feel a sense of having accomplished something while they were here. And that’s about communication and understanding that the human touch, the ability to hear somebody, is oftentimes far more powerful than making sure someone got their meds.
Q: Have you or someone you know experienced age discrimination?
CL: I’m on television, are you kidding me? We see a lot of that in the media, and it is amazing how cruel we are – we don’t let them age! It is not just age discrimination in the workplace anymore. We are beginning to see older women [now] starting to sell glamour products – a huge breakthrough.
Q: What is the oldest item in your possession?
CL: I inherited a priceless collection of early Majolica. It’s a hand-glazed pottery. People knock them off all of the time. They look like big cabbage leaves. I have the originals, and they go back…part of them actually came over on the Mayflower. Some of them are from the 1600s, and they’ve been passed down to three generations through both sides of my family.
If you would like to hear more about Christopher Lowell, hear him speak at the 16th Annual Age of Excellence awards. This event is brought to our community by REAL Services, Inc./Area 2 Agency. Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center is the premier sponsor for the event. Tickets are available to the public and can be purchased at realservices.org.