One of the clichés of retirement is the hard-driving business man who has no idea what to do with himself once he’s left his career. All he does is drive his wife crazy. I think we can dispense with that stereotype (along with the bumbling Dad we see in too many commercials). In 2017 the clichés of how we age are being challenged and redefined. Thank goodness!
The Creative Age by Gene Cohen is one book that I often come back to. Dr. Cohen was a pioneer in the study of geriatrics and had a special interest in how to optimize the aging process. I am sure you won’t be surprised that creative pursuits, in whatever activity you choose, are a huge advantage in aging. Dr. Cohen identifies four key reasons:
- Creativity strengthens our morale in later life. Creativity makes us more emotionally resilient and better able to cope with life’s diversity and losses. Just as exercise improves our muscle tone, when we are creatively engaged, our emotional tone is elevated. I know one veterinary chiropractor who asks for photos of the departed old dogs she has treated. She paints them as a way of managing her own grief. “I don’t paint well”, she says, “but it helps me feel better.”
- Creativity contributes to physical health as we age. Findings from psychoneuroimmunological (!) studies suggest that creativity promotes an immune function boost, especially among older persons. Brain research has found that being engaged in the creative process puts the mind in the same state as praying. That calm and focused brain state is almost meditative and very healing.