Engaging in creative activities, such as painting or writing, is a fun and easy way to keep our brains active and sharp. Research has shown that “making art … causes the brain to continue to reshape, adapt, and restructure” over time, which maintains and even enhances cognitive ability. Aside from these physical benefits, making art also has psychological benefits, including treating depression and anxiety. With this in mind, the Five to Thrive resident enrichment program at Avenida communities was designed to include creative arts classes and programs, to help promote and support Cognitive Efficacy among our residents.
For an older adult with no experience making art, though, taking up a new artistic challenge might be seen as a fruitless endeavor. They may think that they are “too old” to learn a new skill—especially something as complex as creating art. And yet, we are surrounded by stories of individuals who didn’t discover their creative abilities until later in life. Doreen Pechey, a retired engineer, took her very first ballet class at age 61 and passed the ballet grade six exam at age 71. Former President George W. Bush took up painting at age 66 and discovered a true passion and talent for the activity, much to the surprise of his closest family and friends—including his wife!
But still, perhaps those individuals who discovered their artistic passions later in life were just inherently creative individuals all along. For someone who does not view themselves as “creative,” walking into that first art class or music lesson may be intimidating. “I’m just not a creative person, I won’t be any good at this … I’ll embarrass myself!” When faced with this apprehension, it is important to remember that the goal of taking up an artistic hobby is not to create a beautiful and stunning masterpiece; instead, the goal is to simply create. Sally Koslow is a writer who shared her experiences as a first-time painter in this blog post. As she notes, “so often in life, we’re urged to practice until we reach perfection. But in many cases, dipping a toe in alien waters is rejuvenating all on its own. Without aspirations of greatness, you may still exercise a different part of your brain, break out of constricting stereotypes or simply re-introduce yourself to an activity.” In other words, “you don’t have to excel to enjoy every activity.”
Making art is not a reserved activity for a select few. Everyone can—and should—make art regularly, to express themselves and discover new passions, all while enjoying the physical and psychology benefits offered by the process. Looking for a unique way to kick-start your own creativity and try something new? Try the Green Eggs and Ham Creativity Challenge. The children’s book Green Eggs and Ham was written by Dr. Seuss using only 50 unique words. Scientific research has shown that artistic constraints, such as the limited use of only 50 words, can actually fuel creativity and improve problem-solving. Limits help us focus our thinking and produce more creative results. Here are some constraint-inspired creative prompts to get you creating:
- Write a “flash fiction” story with fewer than 1,000 words
- Limit yourself to certain colors when painting
- Draw multiple versions of a still-life object from your house, but change the lighting source for each version
Creativity is a timeless activity—so enjoy!