We hear so much about how to age in healthy ways and the importance of physical activity and social connection. But why is new research showing that creativity is also a vital part of aging well—and staying joyful? And just what do we mean by creativity?
More and more research confirms the connections between overall health and wellbeing and a lower incidence of cognitive decline. Writing in the publication Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Kraus Whitbourne explains that a flexible mindset is another component to keeping the brain healthy as we age. These qualities of general openness and willingness to change are essential parts of creativity, she explains. Striving for new experiences, being willing to take on challenges, and seeing situations in new ways are also aspects of creative thinking.
An Expansive Definition
Most of us think of the creation of artistic works when we think of creativity. But, according to the website dictionary.com, the notion of creativity is actually much more inclusive: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations; originality, progressiveness, or imagination. Other definitions include producing original ideas or bringing something new into existence.
Transferring Creative Skills
Exercising our creative muscles help us age well by allowing us to experience a greater sense of joy and contentment in daily life. Here are some traditional ways of exploring creative expression:
- Dancing; creative movement
- Taking and editing photographs
- Singing or writing songs; playing a musical instrument
- Exploring the visual arts through painting, pastels, charcoal, or coloring books
- Needlework, such as quilting, knitting, crewel, or crochet
- Woodworking, carving
- Journaling, poetry, or other types of writing
- Paper crafts, such as card making or scrapbooking
An article in the Journal of Aging Studies entitled “Successful Aging and Creativity in Later Life” explains that a sense of purpose, competence, and personal growth flow from the creative process. Older adults who engage in creative activities are using their intellect and their imagination, and are able to transfer those flexible thinking skills to problem-solving and other ways to make their everyday lives more meaningful and content.
Forms of Healthy Expression
Another reason creativity can bring joy to seniors is that the act of creating can itself be therapeutic. Creating invites us to fully engage with our process, requiring an intensity of focus that lets us “lose ourselves” in the creative moment.
Creative expression also allows for the opportunity to experience and share our emotions in positive ways. Writing in a journal or writing a poem, for example, can help us process and reflect upon feelings and experiences. But this type of healthy catharsis is not limited to writing: the visual arts and music as well as theater and dance also provide therapeutic outlets for feelings.
Making Creative Connections
The notion of a great novelist writing in complete isolation has been refuted by many researchers. Of course, a writer is usually alone while writing, but the creative process is one of connection to friends, colleagues, and ideas. Similarly, creative expression does not take place in a vacuum; we are shaped by the friends in our quilting group, the other members of our watercolors class, or our fellow actors in our theater group.
The products of creativity and the process that brings them into being are meant to be shared, forging social bonds that further enhance our ability to create and experience the joy and sense of purpose that creating brings.
Life at The Heritage of Green Hills The Heritage of Green Hills Well By Design wellness program helps residents with creative pursuits through its 8 dimensions of wellness. Residents are encouraged to pursue social, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, vocational, environmental, and health services approaches to wellness, offering abundant opportunities for creativity and forging connections through these programs and activities. Residents enjoy creating in our woodshop, expressing themselves through dance and gardening, swimming in the heated indoor pool, wandering the beautiful 87 acres and so much more. In fact, living in a community like The Heritage has so many benefits. Learn more about Well By Design by clicking here.