Could a 72-year-old woman be more creative than her 22-year-old granddaughter? You betcha. Don’t believe it? Science has proven it.
In a recent blog, Carol Cummings, Brookdale’s Optimum Life Engagement and Innovation senior director, references research that suggests how the brain is designed to grow, change and reinvent itself throughout a person’s entire lifespan, provided the brain is challenged and used in new ways.
Turns out, creativity doesn’t have an expiration date. Researchers have even compared creativity to something very familiar: a fine wine — it gets better with age.
The same activities we employ to impede dementia in older adults can actually make us more creative, according to several scientific studies.
And while science has finally gotten on board with this way of thinking — that creativity can flourish with age — history has been proving it for a while now. Consider this:
- Herman Melville wrote his second masterpiece Billy Budd in the final years of his life.
- German novelist Thomas Mann completed one of his greatest works, Confessions of Felix Krull, the year he died at age 80.
- Matisse created an entirely new medium of expression, decoupage, at the age of 75, which he was still producing when he died at age 84.
- Celebrated minimalist painter Carmen Herrera didn’t even sell her first work until age 89.
- Spanish cellist Pablo Casals practiced every day and still played brilliantly at age 96.
- The Italian painter Titian died at 99 — while he was painting.
- Ragtime pianist Eubie Blake was still at the ivories at age 100.
And what did these icons of creativity all have in common? Answer: They lived way beyond the life expectancy of their respective times.
And that’s where science steps back in. In 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts developed a study with The George Washington University to measure the impact of cultural programs on the general, mental and social health of persons over age 65.
Known unofficially as the Creativity and Aging Study, the research project determined that senior citizens who are actively engaged in creative pursuits like, painting, writing, and music had:
- better overall health
- fewer doctor visits
- less dependency on medications
- less instances of depression
- greater feelings of morale
The seniors involved in creative pursuits in the study even experienced fewer falls. That’s right: science is suggesting that creativity can even help you defy gravity!
As it turns out, not only does creativity get better with age, it actually makes aging better.
This article appears in our August 2017 edition of Optimum Life Magazine. Download a PDF of the issue to read more articles like this.