Clay therapy offers a healthy retirement activity option
By Bridgette M. Redman
Patty Housen knew from her studies the importance of being able to have creative adventures close to home as one grows older. She had just completed her degree in gerontology when she and Liz Rosenblatt, a psychologist, formed Full-Circle Pottery, a place where clay therapy is the order of the day.
Driving the creation of their programs and the growth of the studio was their background as scientists. Gerontology is the study of aging — how it affects all aspects of a person’s life including social, cultural, psychological, cognitive and biological. As a gerontologist, Housen knew some of the challenges that older adults experience as they adapt to new ways to live healthy lives.
“I look at it from the gerontology point of view,” Housen said. “We have focused on providing an intergenerational community — we have members who range from 8 to 80-plus. It is the clay that brings us together.”
Clay, Housen said, is the great equalizer because it doesn’t matter what your age is with the clay. A younger potter might have more experience than someone in their 60s. An older person might have been doing it for 30 years and they are able to share their experiences with younger people, a process that contributes to the mental health of all.
Housen had been studying nursing home quality of life as part of her research in graduate school. She started throwing pots because her partner got her a gift certificate in an attempt to help her relax and take a stress break. It would be a life-changing gift.
“When I started working with clay, it just felt so right,” Housen said. “I had never been happier and it was what I thought about all week long.”
Housen saw the opportunity to continue her training through helping create adventures for people that were nearing retirement, in retirement or late in retirement. The studio not only provides room for people to work with clay, but it offers field trips to pottery-related sites, holds an annual festival and hosts special events throughout the year. In short, it provides both adventure and community. Full-Circle Pottery is a place where people can come to feel they belong.
“Retirement is this huge phase of life and people have, over the years, told us that they’d always wanted to throw pots but never had the time,” Housen said. “They shared that they knew the day they retired, they were going to sign up for a pottery class.”
Many people often struggle with depression or anxiety after retirement, Housen explained, because they suddenly have so much free time and they aren’t sure how to use it or how to make meaning out of it. Getting involved in a community, such as the one that they have formed at Full-Circle Pottery, helps older adults participate in meaningful adventures and stay connected with others that have similar interests, all of which helps to alleviate the mental health struggles common at retirement age. It also encourages creativity and helps keep the mind sharp.
At Full-Circle Pottery, healthy aging is the order of the day, guided along by someone that has studied in depth the sort of programs that encourage wellness, adventure and community.
12023 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles