National Certification Council for Activity Professionals

My husband, Will Stoler, and I were presenters at the annual international symposium for The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals, (NCCAP), which was held June 9th-11th, 2016, in Cary, North Carolina. We were honored to be with a remarkable group of knowledgeable professionals. They spend their days providing tools and activities to engage people who have cognitive, social/emotional and physical difficulties. These professionals work in adult day care, independent, assisted living and memory care facilities.

Our interactive and participatory presentation, “Transforming Your Aging Brain with the Multi Modal Method”, combines ancient and modern tools, including music, movement/dance, manual motion or sign language, mindful meditation with visualization and other practices such as art, poetry, writing, reminiscence/memory, yoga, cross-lateralization and drumming.

Our programs allow people to understand that the aging process can be creative, joyful and memorable! Recent studies were presented to the group within the PowerPoint format to allow participants the ability to clearly understand the choices we need to make for creative aging are essential to aging well.

We emphasize the importance of the food we eat, the water we drink, the exercise we do and the ways in which we engage with life. In two separate studies that were discussed, one from the Mayo Clinic, and another from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, it was found that creative activities—such as all forms of music and art—as well as dancing, can minimize the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s by more than 70 %.

In the afternoon, a group of very open-minded and joyful people participated as we sang, danced, signed, meditated, visualized and learned one of our original participatory songs, the “Brainy Walk”. Professionals came to understand that the most empowering way to age is to live our lives with meaning, passion creativity and a joyful spirit. This takes a small bit of discipline! Having fun, playing and engaging positively with life, all of this prevents cognitive decline.

These Activity Professionals have chosen a very timely and important career. As NCCAP evolves, these valuable individuals are essential to the health and wellness of our boomers and seniors. As Activity Professionals work with this exponentially growing population, boomers and seniors become empowered to experience their own creativity and joy as they age.

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Allow !


Let go

Let everyone be!

No judgment

No war

No jealousy

Simply love, compassion, joy, peace- amnesty

Allowing all to be

You and me

Mountains, seas, animals and trees, all sentient beings


When we allow others to be

We all are free

That’s what I see

We are all one connected, one family

Allow everyone to be!


The Buddha Arrives

He came as “Buddy”, adorable and sweet

We rescued him, he made our lives complete

Diane, our pet sitter

Helped change his name

He should be called Buddha

yes”, we exclaimed!

As soon as he arrived, our lives began to change

It was time for a move to a new town

Melrose, Florida,

Small town of renown

On the road with the Stolers

Just bring the treats

In the new R.V.

Traveling free

Now we know, with lessons Buddha came

To love deeply, walk with ease

And let go of what remains

Aging with Creativity and Joy at the Silver Springs Retreat

On March 9, 2016, three members of our Onto the Next team, Gretchen, Will and I, presented a two hour interactive seminar to seniors representing 60 churches of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. The retreat was held at a beautiful site in Silver Springs, Florida.  We felt honored and excited to be asked to share our knowledge of creative aging with those in attendance.

Introducing our tools for positive aging, we combine singing, music, sign language, dance and movement with meditation, visualization, art, yoga and more to create greater integration and positive changes in the brain. These tools are pre-verbal, in every culture on the planet and have been utilized through the ages. They support greater communication, interaction and connections in our brain. From the reviews, smiles and group participation, the afternoon was a success!

Gretchen, Will and I discussed several studies that support the arts and aging offering much positive support for the use of a variety of arts to help boomers/seniors age with joy, better health and meaningful community building.  As stated in the monograph “Creativity Matters: Arts and Aging in America” by Gay Hanna and Susan Perlstein, “The arts are a key variable that provide meaning and true connection among individuals, families and communities.”

It is time to see older people for our potential.  We are the wisdom keepers.  Our Institute, Onto the Next, through combining proven technique with the arts, wants to give people greater voice, vision, value and vitality in order to age, making positive lifestyle choices.  We can leave a legacy for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

It is our wish that the Onto the Next Institute will be able to offer its classes, workshops and programs throughout Florida and beyond, to assist boomers/seniors, caregivers and health care professionals to age with greater joy, passion, love, creativity, peace and connection. Our soon-to-be commissioned RV will give us a moving base of operations allowing us to pursue the opportunity to travel and bring the Onto the Next programs to those in need and their caregivers.

Creativity and Aging

As a speech-language pathologist of almost 50 years, I designed programs combining original music, movement/dance, manual motion (sign language) and mindful meditation: MMM—The Multi-Modal Method, to help children achieve early language and literacy success.

When my 91 year old mother with advancing dementia came to live with us, I brought her to my multi-modal classes with children. I saw that as she participated in these interactive programs, her ability to learn new songs, accompanied by sign language and dance, along with meditation, visualization and yoga, was supportive for her memory, ability to retrieve information, focus and be engaged. She was more present and showed improved communication skills. Her affect was more relaxed and joyful. I realized my programs based on using these pre-verbal tools, could be utilized to allow boomers and seniors to engage in creative ways as they age to support positive changes in the brain (neuroplasticity).

At St. Michael’s Hospital Memory Clinic, in Toronto, Canada, doctors are looking at the role of creativity as it relates to dementia and Alzheimer’s. They are finding that a subject’s personality transforms when given a sketch pad, piano or music for listening. Participants in the study have developed unique neural pathways that are more resistant to the effects of diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and strokes. “The neural networks of creativity might be stronger than the pathologies. The common denominator is the art…any kind of art.”

Art not only expands our minds, but physically helps protect them from disease.

When we create something, whether it be a garden, a cake, a sculpture or a song, a feeling of accomplishment gives greater meaning to our lives. The act of creativity allows us to feel more deeply and find a connection to a greater purpose and our authenticity.

As seniors engaging in creative pursuits, we have an opportunity to reach a deeper sense of joy and fulfillment as we age. We can uncover and rediscover our gifts and talents. We can be awakened to new ideas and resources that allow us to leave an enduring legacy for our planet.

Dr. Gene Cohen believed that creativity is connected to positive brain health. “Brains create new brain cells as long as we are encouraged to keep trying new pursuits”.

Sophia Loren has said “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have defeated age”.

Last week, my co-author, Dr. Gretchen Espinetti Ph.D., and I were honored to be chosen by the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), to present at an international conference taking place September, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the conference is to convene leaders from around the world who are dedicated to promoting and sustaining creative expression as vital to the aging process. This conference, with people represented from six continents, will look at innovative ways to support aging, validating the necessity of embracing creativity as an essential component of healthy aging.

Creativity, It’s Time

Picasso once said:

The enemy of creativity is good sense”

Think about intelligence-

It’s not creative when it makes good sense

Creativity is making new brain connections

Going off in different directions

Combining science with the soul

New awareness-

Letting go of control

Here’s to Picasso and the creative mind

Let’s celebrate this for humankind

It’s our evolution, I remind

With joy and love we will find

Creativity- it’s time!

Poem: The Elder Seal


We will not go silently into the night
Losing our minds, our memories, our rights.
Senses diminished, feeling great fright
We must claim our voices, authentic insights.
We are the elders, wisdom keepers of light
We can articulate, speak of what’s right.
Silent no more, with our words we alight
Our strength is our wisdom, our numbers, insight.
Wisdom keepers, we’ll share with delight
Now young ones will listen as we speak of what’s right.
Have faith in the kindness of one another
Trust each person as sister, brother, father and mother.
Walk in another’s shoes, just to feel another one’s suffering
Is powerful, and real!
Reveal the presence of a Higher Power and feel,
The planet earth now must heal.
With love, compassion, forgiveness-
This is the elder seal!

by Linda Stoler

The Golden Age of Aging

We are presently experiencing a paradigm shift in how we view aging. It is time to create a new set of guidelines that serve us better as we age. In the past we have accepted the fact that aging means either a slow or quick decline from one disease or another. Rather than spending our golden years fighting the ravages of diminished health, we can exchange old concepts of aging for a new more positive view.

While science is searching for a pill to reverse the effects of aging, we can focus on other viable options. The answers lie within each of us. Our brains are powerful transmitters, able to effect positive changes within ourselves and in our environment. Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D. in her latest book, Goddesses Never Age, discusses that our perception of aging has a greater effect on healthy longevity than cholesterol, blood pressure or body mass index.

In a 2015 study conducted at the Mayo Clinic, 256 participants, who are 85 years and older were observed for cognitive levels and chronic conditions. Participants who engaged in artistic pursuits proved 73% less likely to develop cognitive impairment and memory loss. We understand that our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes have a critical effect on the circumstances of our lives and have a far greater impact on our health and well-being as we age.

It is time to change the mind-set of what aging means. What we conceive and believe we can achieve. A Harvard University study The Piano Study, revealed that participants who only visualized playing a piano piece had the same physical changes in the brain as those who actually played it. This strongly suggests that what we imagine we can create and the physical changes will be apparent in the brain.

The famous ongoing “nun study” being conducted at the University of Minnesota, which began in 1986, looks at the brains of women of the cloistered life after they are deceased. Autopsies have found that those women who lived with greater engagement, enthusiasm, joy and creative expression showed no signs of dementia even though their brains exhibited plaques and tangles. Being engaged, passionate and creative definitely has a positive effect on how we age.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to create new healthy neurons at any age. Innovative ideas and experiences allow the brain to create new wiring. The ability to direct and focus attention can shape the brain’s firing patterns. Focus, novelty, reward, emotions and depth of meaning all promote new firing in the brain. When we concentrate on positive outcomes in our lives, they become the new landscape of our brain. Our attention, intention and repetition (AIR), create new connections. Therefore, we can create greater neuron interconnection and adaptation, allowing individuals to continually change and improve. This is how the brain is rewired. According to Dr. George Vaillant, M.D., who directed Harvard’s Longitudinal Study of Adult Development, the brain continues to evolve, allowing us to experience greater spirituality and more positive emotions as we age.

In the book I created with Dr. Gretchen Espinetti, PhD, Transforming Your Aging Brain, we show how combining music, movement and dance, manual motion or sign language and mindful meditation (The Multi-Modal Method, MMM) along with art, poetry, yoga, cross lateralization practices and more, engages the brain in new, exciting, joyful and creative ways.

These pre-verbal, ancient practices are part of our biology, enhancing and supporting new learning, focus, memory, relaxation, positive feelings and greater meaning in our lives. We can learn to exchange negative thoughts and old messages that no longer work for us to more elevated, life affirming ways of understanding and being. Our brain responds to whatever new material we feed it. Therefore our brain is a lifetime work in progress.

As “elders” we have wisdom and understanding that we can tap into as we age. It is time for us to use our voice and vitality to put forth a new vision offering valuable insights for this rapidly changing world. We are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day. We are a 100,000,000 strong and will soon control 70% of the disposable income being the third largest economy in the world. We must uncover our gifts, talents and wisdom to leave our legacy of positive creativity to heal our planet. As the designers of our thoughts, we are responsible for creating a new view and consciousness to lead us into the golden age of aging!

—  Linda S. Stoler, MA, CCC-SLP, The Onto The Next Institute Co-Founder and President