Cyndee Whitney Says the “Third Act” Is Perfect Time for Creativity

Tracing human creativity through the stages of life, Cyndee Whitney offered good news – especially for seniors – in her November 15 General Meeting presentation on “The Importance of Creativity Throughout Our Lives.” A resident and Video Club member, Cyndee is best known to Villagers as the host of her monthly half-hour Village Television show, “Discovering Laguna Woods.”

Cyndee began her career as a Disney animator, then earned a Ph.D. In human and organizational systems and continued with Disney in human development. Her presentation was video-recorded and will be uploaded to the club’s YouTube channel with other General Meeting programs. Availability TBA.

– The Video Club’s officers were unanimously returned to office in an election held at the November 15 General Meeting. In 2019, Steve Carman will be serving his fifth year as President. Continuing with him are Dr. Tom Nash, Vice President; Stephanie Brasher, Secretary; and Bob Kulpa, Treasurer. Thanks to all our dedicated leaders!!

The Creative Process-smAs she began her multi-media presentation, Cyndee explained that the study of creativity is relatively new to the social sciences, having begun in the early 20th Century. Distinguishing between “big C and small C creativity,” she explained that psychologists originally studied creativity as something extraordinary. The current view, she pointed out, is that creativity is entirely human, “an everyday thing that anyone can learn.” And that’s good news for seniors who have more time in retirement and are often less risk-averse than younger adults, she said.

We are no longer an agrarian economy or a manufacturing economy,” she stressed, “but a knowledge economy with continuing needs for creativity at every level.”

What Lifts You-smCyndee recalled valuable training in creativity which she received with a group of younger animators who joined the Disney staff as many of the original animators were retiring. The newcomers produced “some forgettable films,” she admitted, but then came “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “Pocahontas.” This string of successes grew in part out of “an immersion in expertise,” Cyndee explained. The young animators studied every field related to child development – how babies learn, what children respond to – to more effectively reach their audiences. The result was products with more depth, emphasizing empathy, loving, and forgiveness.

Everyday Creativity-smThese studies are also reflected in today’s schools, she stated, where flexibility, smaller classes, and individual options have become more common. “It’s no longer STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math,” she stated, “but STEAM – including the arts.”

Unfortunately, barriers to creativity begin to appear when young graduates hit the working world, Cyndee pointed out. Here, they encounter time pressures, internal strife, risk-aversion, “the lure of conformity,” and, without special efforts to counteract it, she said, “group-think takes over.”

How does organizational creativity happen? Answering that question became part of Cyndee’s later role at Disney, where her assignments included Director of Artist Development and heading a “Big Idears” Program for Disney Consumer Products. “Outsource, incentivize, insist that time be spent on new ideas,” she stressed. “Innovate. Adapt. Make things better. Make things different. Be passionately curious.”

Act 3-Creativity Now-sm

Distinguishing between three types of creativity – everyday, secondary, and sublime – Cyndee stressed that “Act 3” – our senior years – are the perfect time for creativity. She cited famous individuals who achieved creative leadership in their 80s and 90s (among them, Helen Keller, 89; Harriet Tubman, 93; and Frank Lloyd Wright, 92). She shared video of the Young @ Heart Chorus of Northampton, MA, whose renderings of contemporary rock songs have led to world tours and a popular documentary film.

Famous Creative Seniors-smBringing creativity closer to home, Cyndee mentioned several residents, including Nancy Klann who wrote and published her award-winning novel, The Clock of Life, after retiring, and a 93-year-old blind resident who has invented a new kind of cane. She also used photos to emphasize the variety of creative activities available to Village residents.

Audience questions led Cyndee to comment about self-reliance and personal problem-solving for seniors, creative ways to improve memory, and the old competition between nature vs. nurture. “I come down heavily on the side of nurture,” she proclaimed. “Everyone can be creative!”

There will be no General Meeting in December. The next General Meeting will be our 30th Anniversary Open House on Thursday, January 17. For more information, contact President Steve Carman,, 424-254-6583.

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