I received a very exciting call the other day. It was from my 93-year young mom telling me she joined a “glee club”. Her group “The Angels” consists of seven elderly women who sing hits and show tunes from back in the day. And get this: their first performance is set for the holidays. My mom never sang in her life but in her tenth decade, she is exploring her creativity in many ways.
She’s just one example of how it’s never too late to create dreams, to go after your bucket list desires or complete that lifetime project in your mind’s eye. In fact a large part of our nation’s creativity will come from the older population. Here’s why. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 there were more than 40 million Americans 65 years and older, approximately 13.3 % of the total U.S. population. The over 65 age category is the fastest growing category in the country, with forecasts that by 2050 this group will account for more than one in five Americans 88.5 million seniors. And the good news is that there is a growing body of evidence that creativity need not decline with age.
Timothy A. Salthouse in his book, Major Issues in Cognitive Aging writes, "Although there is no shortage of opinions about cognitive aging, it sometimes seems that relatively few of the claims are based on well-established empirical evidence assertions about cognitive aging may be influenced as much by the authors' preconceptions and attitudes as by systematic evaluations of empirical research." Prevailing wisdom about the role creativity plays in aging is that it can help slow down the process of mental decline, memory loss, and brain-related health issues such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. But there is now a growing body of evidence that the aging brain may be more creative and capable of innovation than younger brains.
Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Center on Aging, "There are neuro-circuitry factors that can favor age in terms of innovation". One of the key elements in this equation is empathy—a mental and emotional capacity that is learned and refined as we age. Dr. Small also indicates that an aging brain can “…better tease out patterns and see the big picture.”
So, whatever your age pull out your creative muscle and create, like 86 year young poet Barbara Hubbard did last month. Nestled on her houseboat in the Bay Area, in a interview Hubbard shared” My inspiration for my first full length novel, Beyond Bitterroot began with a series of linked short stories.” However, she explained, “While I worked on the stories, new material continued to emerge and I realized that what I had crafted was not a collection of short stories, but a novel.” Hubbard described her later year creative expression as a story of imperfect but well-intentioned people trying to understand and adapt--in the face of the oncoming Great Depression—to a world that was not the world they expected it to be.”
Hubbard grew up during the 1930’s and 1940’s, amidst the Great Depression, World War II, and the emerging cultural and intellectual changes occurring across the globe.
Like my mom and Barbara Hubbard, if you’ve ever had an inkling to draw, write, act, design, dance, whatever tickles your creative fancy, remember it
Its never too late . Start now.