Vignettes on Aging – Creativity

Creative endeavors can add to the happiness of our elder years.

Being engaged in hands-on creative activities can improve motor skills, strengthen social connections, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety. These activities can also be good for the brain. This isn’t news to many of us who have expanded our drawing, writing, coloring, and paper crafts exponentially in retirement and particularly during the pandemic.

There are no requirements to be good at what you create. The point is to use a different part of your brain for a period of time. My brain gets tired after so much logical left brain activity. I’ve used that part of my brain with the cognitive linear thinking to process what’s gone on in the world. Give it a rest! And the best way to do that, next to sleeping and meditating, is to use the other parts of your brain more actively.

Creativity — whether that’s tearing paper for collages, taking photographs, or molding clay, to name a few — uses the right side of our brain where visual memories are stored (whereas the left side of our brain stores verbal information). We don’t get the creative part engaged as much when we’re doing crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, or even Sudoku because these activities use more intensive problem solving, less free-floating energy.

Being creative in our later years is more satisfying because we are able to choose the what, when, where and with whom. We don’t have to be stuck in a class with others who might peruse our work and deem it unsatisfactory compared to the endeavors of others. At this point in life, no one wants to find themselves in situations that add a layer of judgment or comparison-invoking.

So, here’s to breaking out the coloring book, drawing paper, mixed media supplies, or potter’s wheel. Have fun getting creative!