Creativity Can Empower Your Second Half of Life

Creativity Can Empower Your Second Half of Life

There are many ways to uncover and develop your creativity. The great thing is … it can help all aspects of your life.

TheConversationAttibuteEvery day we hear of amazing creative people who are active well into their seventies and eighties.

One of the most famous was Grandma Moses (1860-1961), an American folk artist, who started her art career when she was 79 and continued well into her 90’s. People view her as remarkable because she started her art career so late in life. She is not unusual in terms of people who continue to their creative endeavors to the very end. George Burns (1896-1996), the American actor and author so many loved, started out in the days of vaudeville and acted well into his 80’s. Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976), the detective novelist, wrote up until her death at age 86, her books selling over 100 million copies. In your own life, you probably have friends who are always trying some new creative endeavor, so it’s not just the famous who nurture this aspect of life.

Many changes occur as we enter the older years, and they are often factors that can release aspects of creativity that have lain dormant. When families have been raised there is often more time to pursue creative activities. At some point, careers come to an end, and a person can pursue creative hobbies, or even start an encore ( career that enables them to use their creative talents.

The brain is different in the later years, and many of the ways are amazing and wondrous. It is conceivably part of our evolution as mankind. So many are living to be so much older, not only in the United States, but all over the world. People are living longer, more healthy and mentally-sharp years. It is bringing opportunities for continued development and the possibility for innovation through creative thinking.

It is true that it takes longer to learn new things, and we can’t access the information in our brains as quickly as we once could. We don’t react as quickly as a younger person. It is more difficult to multitask, to keep as much in our brains at one time. We have brains that can be more easily distracted. Some people do develop serious memory problems, but it is important to know that this is not a norm of healthy aging.

Science is showing that there are a number of ways that the brain improves with age, and many of these increase the ability to be creative and innovate. According to Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and the director of the UCLA Center on Aging, talks about the brain factors that favor innovation as we age. An older person has a greater variety of experiences, a lifetime of knowledge, more images they have seen, and more connections between the various parts of their brains. Older people can be more empathetic with others, and can better anticipate problems because of their experiences.

When a person is in their sixties and beyond, they realize that they have a limited number of years in their future, so they can live more in the present. This helps them to be able to be more mindful, which helps the creative process. They tend to think “outside the box”.

What are the ways that creativity can enhance your life as you age?

It Empowers You as You Deal with Life’s Challenges

Life brings so many changes in health and life circumstances. Learning that we can be creative and have new approaches in everyday living can help us find ways to deal with these changes. For example, since we can’t move our body in the same way or have the same strength as in younger years, a person figures out new ways to accomplish things. This is when having a creative approach to life can come in handy.

At this stage in life, often people are retired and have an “empty nest”. A career and family have given a person a sense of self in their younger years. In the later years, creative endeavors can help a person to find something that they can identify with and be connected to other than what drove them previously. It can provide a sense of pride and purpose in personal contribution.

When you have a creative endeavor that is part of your life, you find yourself thinking about it and planning aspects of it at various times throughout the day. As a person gains increasing expertise in a creative endeavor, this increases a sense of self-confidence. This can spill over to the rest of life.

It Strengthens Your Brain

Everyday we are seeing research reports that show that brains become stronger when we have new activities, new surroundings, and new people in our lives. The brain forms new connections (synapses) between the brain cells, and enhances brain reserves. In addition to having higher brain activity, the brain physically changes and becomes stronger. This has been shown to protect the brain against various forms of dementia, even into very old age. A study reported in Neurology showed that people who were involved in various creative endeavors were 73% less likely to have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is a risk factor for developing dementia.

Since creative activities are fun to do, they are sustainable and bring ongoing challenges. These can help you to be mentally alert and sound on into your much older years.

It Helps You Stay Connected to Others

The National Institute on Aging has reported that there are studies, which show that there are many positive effects of staying socially engaged on physical and emotional health. Many creative activities provides opportunities to be involved with others, such as singing with a choir, watercolor painting in a class or club, getting together with fellow fiber artists, building models with others, or being in a writing group. As you share a creative hobby you form friendships that can last a lifetime.

Having a creative hobby can connect older people with younger generations. This can be seen when skills such as weaving art, metal arts, crocheting, tatting, and woodcarving are shared and passed on to younger generations. What a fine way to connect with our young people and keep creative aspects of our culture alive.

It Helps You Stay Healthy

Scientists have long studied the effects of positive thoughts on the immune system. In fact, there is a whole field of research call psychoneuroimmunology that has yielded a great deal of information in this brain/body connection. The positive feelings and a sense of being in control can strengthen your immune system and help your health.

In 2001, a groundbreaking scientific study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health on Creativity and Aging Study was conducted involving individuals in 65 years of age and older. The study group was involved in art activities that involved building creative skills over a year’s time. They had a professional artist work with them in teaching them art skills.   The control group, the group that was compared to the study group, was similar to the study group in many ways, and they were involved in a variety of activities, many of them involving attending cultural experiences. Some results were that the study group reported improved health, had a smaller increase in the use of medication, had fewer falls, and greater improvements in depression, loneliness, and morale. In addition, the Study group increased their number of activities, while the control group decreased their activities.

What ways can you increase your creativity to enhance your life? Are there creative hobbies you are involved in such as photography, writing, fiber arts, singing, acting, creative cooking, crafting and gardening? There are many ways to pursue these on your own or with others. Check out your local newspaper to find various clubs. See what recreation centers, senior centers or your library may have to offer. Stores that sell creative materials will often offer classes or sponsor clubs. Check out craft yarn, woodworking, scrapbooking, camera, and weaving stores. Consider finding an improvisation class for fun and creative thinking. Community Theater and bands can provide another way to expand your creativity. Check out MeetUp groups in your area. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities are around when you start exploring.

What knowledge are you gaining in your areas of interest? There are magazines for just about any hobby. There are a myriad of free resources on the Internet. Are you checking out what is on YouTube for learning new creative skills? It is a wonderful resource, and you can find some creative videos on the Designing Brighter Tomorrows YouTube channel. Another wonderful Internet tool for finding and organizing creative ideas is Pinterest, which operates as an on-line collection of virtual bulletin boards to collect any creative ideas you find there.

Start considering creativity as being important for your life. It will add fun to your life … it is good for your physical, mental and emotional health … and it is good for the world. We all can use more fun!

Author: Linda Marsolek

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