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SENIORS : The Write Stuff : Courses in putting pen to paper are just one way for older people to develop their latent skills.

December 20, 1990|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Use it or lose it." It's good advice. But what if you still haven't found it in the first place?

Some people discover their creativity early and exercise their talents over a lifetime. But many older people never learned how to play as children. They grew up in an era that favored practical endeavors. Self-exploration and expression were luxuries that were eclipsed.

Fortunately, creativity has no age limit. In fact, your life experiences probably have enhanced your gifts. So why not take advantage of opportunities now to learn a hobby or to discover hidden talents?

Senior citizen centers, and adult education and community service programs, sponsor a variety of free or inexpensive classes that are fun and challenging. Writing classes are a popular way to get started. Soon you may find yourself taking Simi Valley Adult School's "Cartoons and Caricatures" or Cal Lutheran's "Crossword Construction for Profit and Fun."

For example, when Charlotte Snelson moved to Ojai from New Hampshire, her son urged her to write down her childhood experiences for her grandchildren to enjoy. That was 10 years ago.

"I kept putting it off until a neighbor persuaded me to attend a creative writing class with her about a year ago," Snelson recalled. Since then, she has become a regular participant in the creative writing class of volunteer Lydia Marcus, 73, who has been teaching the class at Ojai's Little House senior center for seven years.

"I found having a weekly deadline helpful, and I enjoy it," Snelson said. Although the 80-year-old finds the reactions of class members helpful, she said, "I never had the ambition to be published. But I do think I have found a form in which to express myself."

Snelson said she does not believe she would have written her stories and poems without the class.

Marcus, who wrote and performed professionally before her retirement, said senior citizens ages 60 to 90 attend the class. "They have such rich backgrounds that it's like going around the world or going to school to hear what they've written," she said. Marcus has noticed that her students' sense of humor has also developed in their writing.

Like Marcus, other senior citizens find creative fulfillment by teaching a class. After spending 25 years as a graphic and commercial artist, Dick Torst did not plan to retire and sit on the porch. Besides working as a free-lance artist, Torst teaches "Cartoons and Caricatures" for beginners at the Simi Valley Adult School.

"I have enjoyed the teaching the most because of the people. We have a lot of laughs, and the seniors feel they have accomplished something. We find that we're looking forward to the next class," Torst said.

Open yourself to new adventures. There is no limit to what you can do. The following sampling of resources and classes may help tap your creative impulses:

Adult Education Programs: Conejo Valley (805) 497-2761; Simi Valley (805) 527-4840; Oxnard (805) 385-2578; Ventura (805) 326-0263.

Community College Community Services Programs: Moorpark (805) 378-1408; Oxnard (805) 986-5822; Ventura (805) 654-6400.

Learning Tree University in Thousand Oaks (805) 497-2292.

The Ventura County Writer's Group, Port Hueneme (805) 986-3584 or Thousand Oaks (805) 495-1675.

PEN Women (805) 495-2026.

The Society of Children's Book Writers (805) 648-2250.

The Santa Barbara Writer's Conference is a fun, inspiring event held each June. For details, write P.O. Box 304, Carpenteria 93013 or call (805) 648-2250.

What better way to use your creativity than by developing priority legislation that affects older Californians? Ventura County residents ages 60 and older have until 5 p.m. Dec. 27 to file petitions to run for two-year seats on the California Senior Legislature (CSL). A total of 120 unpaid members, including three from Ventura County, lobby members of the Legislature on behalf of bills suggested by the CSL.

To qualify for the elections on March 12, applicants must obtain the signatures of at least 50 county residents who are 60 or older. Nominating papers are available at the Area Agency on Aging, 505 Poli St., Ventura. For details, call (805) 652-7560.

HOLIDAY VERSE'A CHRISTMAS GREETING'

From the land of the tall Eucalyptus,

of oak, of orchards, of flowers,

From the mountain-enfolded Ojai

with its wintering birds and its showers,

As I think of my friends and my loved ones,

other times, other places draw near,

And I send forth a wave of remembrances

of love, of hope, and of cheer. --Charlotte Snelson

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