Keep Creative for a Better Brain
The benefits of creative endeavors for older adults is clear. When people learn new things in new ways, their brains stay younger and more agile. They may even be less vulnerable to dementia and cognitive decline. There seems to be a belief that it’s the young who are the best at coming up with new ideas, but it appears that might be nothing more than an unfortunate stereotype.
The Golden Years Can Be the Most Productive
Older people may actually be more creative than their younger counterparts, in part because they can make more connections between seemingly unrelated ideas– thanks to the multitude of experiences they’ve had in their lives. Also, the changes in the aging brain resemble what scientists have observed in the brains of creatives of all ages. They’re less concerned about what others may think of them, and they are more easily distracted, which means they’re more likely to skip from idea to idea to make unexpected associations.
Where to Start
If you haven’t been involved in artistic pursuits before, you may be wondering where to begin since there are so many possibilities. Shelly Carson, Ph.D., author of The Creative Brain, advises that you think about one life lesson you would like to share with future generations. Then decide on the artistic genre you’d like to use to express this teaching. It could be through writing a novel, creating a painting or composing a song. Then dedicate yourself to learning the art form of your choice and practice it to become proficient. Not only will this be beneficial to your brain, but it’s an enjoyable, engaging way to spend your time.
If you’re thinking you’re too old, you’d be wrong. There’s a long list of successful artists who have gotten started and flourished well over the age of 65.
Begin at an easier level, and advance to more challenging levels as you get better than before. Make learning new things a part of your routine. Try new things to find out what energizes you. Many of these activities also involve a social element, too. Try your hand at some of these:
Painting and drawing. Museums, galleries and art associations can all provide information on art classes and workshops in your area.
Photography. There’s a photography club in just about every city and town. Portrait, street, macro and landscape photography are just some of the types of photography you can practice and learn.
Writing. Whether you enjoy writing poetry, stories or are penning your autobiography, you’re bound to enjoy attending a writer’s workshop. Consider signing up for a class or inquiring at your local library to find out about local writer’s groups. Blogging is also another enjoyable outlet. You may have heard about Olive Riley, who started blogging at age 107!
Music. Join a choral group, play in a band or learn a new instrument from the beginning. Music has been shown to have so many benefits for the brain, particularly when you are making the music versus just listening to it.
Gardening. Gardening clubs are present in most communities. Planning and creating a vegetable or flower garden is very satisfying and something you can share with family and friends.
Cooking. Cooking can be an excellent way to stir up some creativity as you learn about new flavor combinations and preparation techniques. Senior centers, adult educations classes, and even some cooking specialty shops offer instruction for aspiring gourmets.
It’s nice to know that creating art improves mental functioning by increasing the number of neural pathways in the brain and producing stronger, thicker dendrites. But the bottom line about staying creative is that it’s an excellent way to relax that’s also engaging and potentially exciting. Creative outlets can lend themselves to socialization, and they give you a sense of control and purpose in life. Try something new, or renew an old passion, for a more fun, focused and healthy life.