It was surprising to read that creativity studies in adults conducted by psychologists at the University of California Berkley showed that creativity tends to decline with age. Their research found that older adults showed fewer creative thought processes than children. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/114/30/7892.full.pdf
This study supports the idea that older people aren’t creative. Society generally regards elders as showing rigid thinking patterns and set in their ways.
Many older people buy into this belief. They reject the notion that they are creative as they equate creativity with art (painting) or music (playing an instrument) or literature (writing poetry or prose). How sad — because creativity can take many forms such as developing new ideas, new processes or new products. Elder wisdom allows us to develop and innovate in many areas of life — not only in those fields commonly conceived of as the domain of artists and musicians.
What is Creativity?
Generally, creativity is defined as the process of finding an original solution for a problem or a process that develops something new or novel. It involves imagination, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
We can develop creativity. It’s a learnable skill just like bridge, or math, or tennis. It takes patience and, often involves taking risks to try something new. Trying something different might involve new experiences or exposure to novel ideas or an unconventional approach to a problem or learning s new skill.
Maslow, in his theory of motivation and the hierarchy of human needs, links creativity and self-actualization. Self-actualization includes developing talents and abilities. It is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The capacity for self-actualization assumes that lower-level basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety are satisfied before attaining personal growth through self-actualization. Maslow concedes, however, that some people find the need for creative fulfillment more pressing than even the most basic needs.
The process of creativity may be more important than the product. While I don’t regard myself as an overly creative person, I often lose myself in doing or making something. It might be cooking or knitting or writing or playing the piano. I don’t excel at any of these skills, yet I often lose track of time when I spend time in such endeavours.
Creativity promotes personal growth and builds confidence. We can test new ideas, express our uniqueness, solve personal problems, and age well.
Some people will naturally have more creative ‘gifts’ but each of us can improve our creative skills. In research for this article, I found many recommendations for increasing creative potential, regardless of age.
- Make time for creativity. It’s important to schedule time for yourself without mundane obligations that get in the way of creativity. Some people make creativity intentional by devoting time to creative pursuits first thing in the morning. Others use a ‘seize the moment’ strategy opting to work on a project when inspiration strikes.
- Make space for creativity. If you keep your creative project handy, it’s easy to take up a project quickly without wasting time looking for essential tools. Some people designate a ‘thinking’ chair or corner. Others organize and store equipment in ways that make it easy to enjoy creative hobbies. As a blogger, I keep a notebook in my purse so that I can record thoughts and ideas that may become a future blog post.
- Stay curious. Many experts recommend adjusting routines with ideas like taking a new route to work, trying new recipes, and exposing oneself to novel viewpoints. More importantly, one can question everything, read, and dig deep for thought-provoking answers.practi
- Work at creativity. Just as learning to play an instrument involves daily practise, learning how to be creative also involves practice. Keeping creative juices flowing involves daily commitment. Small bursts — such as weekend marathons to create something — are important but unrealistic for many of us! Perseverance in looking for new solutions to a problem requires regularity.
- Learn new skills. Sometimes starting as a beginner means a level of embarrassment or shame. Creative people risk looking stupid as they do things over and over until an action or skill becomes second nature.
- Use lateral thinking. Creativity often means that our brains are making connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. Lateral thinking involves learning how to approach problems and situations from different angles. It involves using different parts of the brain. Some experts recommend studying music or learning a new language to develop new brain pathways that encourage lateral thinking capacity. Others recommend exploring various perspectives by reading information from mainline and alternative media sources.
- Record ideas regardless of how silly or far-fetched. Writing about ideas is similar to putting ideas into an incubator. Once written, you can watch ideas grow. Julia Cameron’s morning pages are an excellent way to explore and record new ideas. https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/
Finally, readers, everything we’ve done in our lifetime adds to wisdom. All of us can make connections among seemingly unrelated ideas. With some imagination, we can apply a lifetime of knowledge, skills, and experience to the pursuit of creativity as we grow older.
I’m interested in your comments about how to keep creativity alive as you grow older. Thanks for reading this post. If you like this blog, please tell others about it and, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive an email when I publish a new post.